Game of Thrones Prediction Form

If you love Game of Thrones as much as I, you may be super excited as the April premiere gets closer and closer, with the final season on the horizon.

With that in mind, I put together a scoring system so that you can battle with your friends over how you think this season will go. Download the form below, fill it out, and turn in to one central person who can keep track of points during the last six episodes!

Click the image to download the PDF! Or save as a JPG!

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Review: Captive State

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Captive State.

This movie is entirely under the radar, no one is talking about it. That’s usually not a good sign, so I went to the theaters to check it out for myself.

The gist.

10 years ago, aliens conquered the world. Now known as “Legislators,” they rule over the humans and mine deep into the Earth for minerals. Most humans have surrendered, though small packs of rebels fight back. Gabriel (Ashton Sanders, Moonlight) works for them and wants to escape along with his friend (played by Machine Gun Kelly). He’s looked after by a police officer named William (John Goodman) who was a friend of Gabriel’s father. Gabriel gets roped into helping with a massive attack being planned against the aliens, orchestrated in memory of his brother (Jonathan Majors), that he believes is dead. We also have Vera Farmiga as a mysterious prostitute who has some strange connections with both the rebels and the police.

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What works?

This movie’s strongest aspect is the world that they’ve created here. There are some incredible details and nuance to this world, that makes it seem realistic. I was intrigued throughout the entire runtime, given information slowly about these alien overlords. While this movie tonally feels like District 9, we see our aliens much less here. There’s only a few sequences that even give us a good look. It worked though, but it may feel slow if you’re expecting a shoot-em-up science fiction movie. This is a character piece, set in an alien occupation setting.

Both Ashton Sanders and John Goodman are great here, carrying the film. We know they’re both competent actors, so this isn’t surprising. This movie also does something unique in sometimes zooming out and not even focusing on our leads. There’s an entire act of the movie (or so it feels) that focuses on an actual rebel attack against the aliens, that doesn’t really focus on either of our leads, sidelining both of them while this attack is plotted and executed. Most major films wouldn’t do this, but here it totally worked and reminded you that this is a living world, not just a plot created for our “hero.”

What doesn’t work?

While I was interested by the world building, it didn’t do anything exceptionally new. It has a dash of District 9 (or really any Neill Blomkamp movie) and has some low budget tendencies that reminded me of last year’s Kin. When it comes to the plot, and a group of rebels trying to overtake the government, it reminded me of most generic YA dystopian stories such as The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, or Divergent. So when you break this movie apart, it’s all been done before.

I also have to note that the marketing for this film also spoiled a major moment for the movie’s climax. There’s just one epic shot, involving John Goodman, that is featured prominently both in the trailers and in the still photos (I won’t include it here) but you wait the whole movie for that moment and it kind of gives away that character’s arc. Just a bummer.

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Overall…

There’s plenty to like about Captive State. It’s a very cool world and the intrigue that surrounds these alien hosts is done perfectly. However, once you start pulling the aspects of this movie apart, it starts to feel like you’ve seen all this before, though maybe not in this combination. This is an average film, you won’t regret seeing it, but I doubt this will top anyone’s “Best of 2019” lists.

3

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Review: Captain Marvel

cap marvel header 2adam reviewCaptain Marvel.

This is an incredibly tough review to write. I love Captain Marvel as a character, so I was excited to see this movie finally release. I also admire Brie Larson, who made some (somehow controversial) statements about wanting more POC and women to be involved in the press screenings and able to review the film, which I totally support. This statement somehow translated to “Brie hates white men” and now some pockets are boycotting or review-bombing (giving negative reviews) on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. My honest and not always positive feedback here is based on the film alone.

The gist.

Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is a member of an interstellar military force, though she can’t remember how she came to be on this planet or her life before. She’s mentored by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), who teaches her to ignore her past and to ignore emotion. This military force is tied to an alien race called the Kree, who are at war with a shapeshifting alien race called the Skrulls (led by Ben Mendelsohn). This fight ends up sending Danvers back to Earth, where she starts to uncover her hidden history. She encounters a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who helps her to uncover the secrets she’s looking for, including the identity of a woman (Annette Bening) who appears in her dreams. Danvers also reunites with someone who can help her piece her memories together, an old friend named Maria (Lashana Lynch). This is a prequel film, set in the 1990s, so we also see some characters from Guardians of the Galaxy before that film takes place, including Djimon Hounsou as Korath and Lee Pace as Ronan.

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What works?

Movies like this are difficult, as we know where some of these characters end up, but this serves as a neat way to discover the early days of SHIELD. This movie leans into the 1990s aesthetic, including tons of music and references that will leave many of you feeling nostalgic. It’s also interesting to see other MCU characters involved that we thought we’d never see again.

The biggest challenge with being a prequel is presenting us with younger versions of these characters. We’ve seen snippets of this CGI effect in films like Civil War and Ant-Man, but here, we’ve got one of our leading characters being de-aged. And it looks fantastic, truly breathtaking. You forget that Samuel L. Jackson is a 70-year-old man. It’s incredible what they’ve done.

I also appreciated the Skrulls as an enemy, although it takes a wild divergence from what fans of the comics might be expecting. Ben Mendelsohn is great and I can’t really say why, but it’s a refreshing and interesting take. It brings up some questions about the future of the MCU and how the Skrulls play into that though, so comic purists may be frustrated.

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What doesn’t work?

Unfortunately, not everything is great with this movie. Now, I do think this is an important movie but it flounders in similar ways as other MCU origin stories have. I think yes, young children should see this movie and be excited to wear Captain Marvel costumes for Halloween next year. I think it provides some important messages, but that doesn’t make it immune to some critique.

This movie feels a bit bland, in terms of tone. It never gets super serious, which could’ve actually benefited it. There are some (meant to be) chilling moments involving the shapeshifting Skrulls but they’re instead played for comedy. So like other MCU movies, it focuses on that humor and feels generally the same as those other films. I compare it mostly to the first Thor film. Asgard didn’t feel like a real place, it’s full of exposition, and it’s a starting point for a cool character. I feel that way about Captain Marvel. Future movies might really let her loose, but here, it was a bit generic.

And while the visual effects for Samuel L. Jackson were phenomenal, the effects for Brie Larson flying through space were usually a little subpar. She looked like a videogame for most of these sequences. When she’s on land, it appears much better, it’s really only the space sequences that look… unpolished.

I also hate to do this… I don’t know if Brie Larson is a perfect fit here. I think she’s great as a person, but her performance here wasn’t the highlight of the film. When you see Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, you think “There’s no one else that can be that character.” Here, anyone could’ve played Carol Danvers. I thought the same thing with Thor, so maybe she just needs a few more movies to really embody that character.

I also felt an underwhelming excitement. There were moments that should have given me goosebumps, lines that should have been WOW moments. Instead, it felt a little underwhelming, either because the humor undercut the seriousness or sometimes because of poor music editing (they’d lower the music to be so quiet, so you could hear the witty one-liners).

Overall…

An average score is not bad, I feel like I need to remind people of that. It’s average. With 20+ Marvel movies so far, this is smack dab in the middle. It’s a fun look at the history of the MCU and introduces a character that hopefully someday really knocks our socks off. The movie has a lot of technical problems but a powerful message, so if you temper your expectations, you should have an absolutely fine time here.

3

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Review: Fighting with My Family

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Fighting with My Family.

I used to be a huge WWE fan (back when it was still WWF) but I was a fan before the wrestler known as Paige became popular. Even though I didn’t know her, there were enough key factors here for me to be excited about this movie, so I went in hoping to be surprised.

The gist.

The Knight family is a family of wrestlers, with their own wrestling federation in a small English town. The father (Nick Frost) and mother (Lena Headey) do most of the organizing, while the son Zak (Jack Lowden) and daughter Saraya (Florence Pugh) do most of the fighting. It’s Zak and Saraya’s dream to be signed to the WWE roster, so things look bright when a recruiter (Vince Vaughn) calls them to come audition. Things look dire though, when Saraya (now with the stage name “Paige”) is recruited but her brother isn’t. This is a story about the two of them and how this all plays out. We also get a few hefty cameos from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who produced this movie, which was directed and written by Stephen Merchant.

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What works?

As an “inspirational” film, this totally works. It’s very easy to root for our two main heroes here and we get to see both of them struggle and triumph quite a few times. Both Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden are relative newcomers to mainstream Hollywood but they both deliver great performances, especially considering the physicality of what they’re doing.

This is also quite a funny movie, where we get much from comedic heavyweights such as Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn, and even The Rock himself. It is British humor, meaning I had a hard time keeping up with their quips and sometimes I didn’t even understand what they’re saying. Captions always help me when I’m watching at home, so maybe a rewatch someday will reveal a whole new layer of comedy.

I also appreciated the depth of the story here. It’s easy to focus on Saraya/Paige and her journey, but almost just as much time is devoted to Zak and what happens after he’s rejected. It’s a touching and ultimately more realistic story as opposed to Paige’s, so we get this interesting duality here.

It was also nice to see Vince Vaughn, it feels like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen him on the big screen. Here, while he’s witty and sharp, he also serves as a key motivator to Paige and serves almost a drill sergeant role, which totally works for him. I guess it reminded me most of his turn in Hacksaw Ridge, which I really appreciated a few years ago.

What doesn’t work?

True stories often don’t hold up after you look at what really happened and I made the unfortunate mistake of looking up some key moments from the film to see how the actual moment went, and the big climax of the movie is nothing like what the film portrays. Not to spoil anything but it’s embellished in a way to make Paige seem more like an underdog and more likable than what really transpired. If you don’t look into that, you can live happily in ignorance.

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Overall…

Even though Fighting with My Family is a pretty horrible name, the movie itself is a really fun and inspiring ride. It should hit hard for people that are (or were) fans of wrestling, yet it also seems approachable enough for most mainstream audiences to appreciate. It’s funny, heartwarming, and has some key life lessons to take away. The only real weakness was maybe how they veered from reality, but if you don’t look too hard into the backstory, this film should be a solid journey for you.

4

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Review: How to Train Your Dragon 3

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How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World.

The original How to Train Your Dragon surprised me, a new franchise that managed to check every box for me. Vikings? Yes. Dragons? Yes. Outsider creating emotional bond with misunderstood monster? Yes. The sequel also managed to hit all the right notes. So there’s a lot riding on this film, to cap a trilogy that could be fantastic. Was it able to?

The gist.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now the Chief of his people. They’ve been bringing in all the dragons they can find, which means their city of Berk is nearly overrun, so it’s up to him to find a new safe place for men and dragons to live in harmony. However a new villain named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is on the horizon, known for killing Night Furies just like Toothless. Can Hiccup find safety and evade this dangerous new killer? To make matters more confusing, a new Light Fury arrives on the scene to tempt Toothless.

We have returning voice actors that also include America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Kristen Wiig. They’ve brought in newcomer Justin Rupple to replace T.J. Miller (unsurprisingly).

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What works?

This movie looks gorgeous and has plenty of really cool action moments to showcase the hard work they’ve put in. In the opening sequence alone, there were several “oh wow” moments including dragon armor and wingsuits that the vikings now use. The action has never looked better.

With that, this movie continues to create new and interesting types of dragons, including some new “dragon killers” employed by our main villain. I sometimes wish the movie would slow down and just let us look at them since the action often makes their cool features hard to distinguish.

As a closing chapter to the story, this is a mixed bag. What I really enjoyed were the final ten minutes or so, an epilogue that really wraps up this tale. That sequence had me in tears, though the movie leading up to that is going to be much more divisive.

What didn’t work?

Let’s talk about this movie’s plot. A dangerous hunter of dragons shows up, utilizing other dragons, and a secret land of dragons is discovered. This is exactly the plotline of How to Train Your Dragon 2, so I felt a little disappointed throughout this entire film that it all felt so familiar, even if it was done well. With two outstanding entries, this third one should have knocked it out of the park and I don’t think that’s the case.

The humor often didn’t land, especially surrounding the replacement to T.J. Miller, who tried to replicate the jokes that Tuffnut and Ruffnut batted back and forth, to a lesser degree of success. The villain, meant to be ominous and threatening, was not really threatening at all. He kills dragons several times and there’s no emotional impact. The movie almost speeds past his heinous acts instead of building him up as a threatening character.

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Overall…

While the epilogue is a fitting conclusion to this movie, the hour and a half leading up to it feel a bit redundant. The humor doesn’t always land and our villain feels underwhelming. I’m conflicted here because I loved the first two so much, but this (for me) clocks in as the weakest entry in the series. That being said… This is still a fine movie. Great for kids, tons of action, and some interesting new designs for dragons. It’s just not the spectacular achievement that I was hoping for.

3

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(Review) Alita: Battle Angel

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Alita: Battle Angel.

It’s been a rocky road for Alita. It’s got a major following because it’s based on a manga series but its initial trailers looked bad, at least bad enough to divide fans on what to expect. If the visuals here didn’t pan out, this whole movie would flounder. So was the final product polished enough to please audiences?

The gist.

We’re in the far future, where the cities on the ground have become dumping grounds for major cities that float in the sky. Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds a cyborg in the dump pile and puts her back together, naming her Alita (Rosa Salazar). Alita doesn’t remember anything, so she slowly tries to remember who and what she is. She does this with the help of a young guy named Hugo (Keean Johnson). Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) finds out about Alita and reports back to a man named Vector (Mahershala Ali), who has some nefarious motives.

Alita runs into some dangerous enhanced killers along the journey, played by Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley,  and Eiza Gonzalez. We also get some weird cameos from Jai Courtney, Edward Norton, and a few scenes with Lana Condor (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before).

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What works?

Let me start by saying that it might be to this movie’s advantage that folks were hesitant. It set the bar low, making it easy to impress. And impress me, it did.

The worldbuilding on display here is perfect, showing us so much quickly with only a few nuggets of exposition. One of the first drafts of the screenplay was written by James Cameron, who has had to create many worlds before, so I expect he had a strong hand in that. Now, the visuals don’t always look great, but they look great in this world. Even when the villains look like video game characters, it still fits into this reality that they’ve created for us, so it manages to work.

It’s really Alita herself who steals the show though, played by Rosa Salazar (Maze Runners, CHIPS, Bird Box). Salazar performed while wearing motion-capture technology, so Alita is entirely CGI but it’s good enough that I had to look that up. Her trademark eyes are huge but the rest of her face and body had me questioning what was real. Not only does she look great but Alita is an insanely interesting character and is very likable, in addition to being a complete badass.

The fight sequences here are amazing, though way over the top. Sit back and enjoy, because it gets wild, especially a major battle towards the climax with like eight killers competing to kill Alita first. These sequences are great, well worth paying for a premium showing.

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What doesn’t work?

There are a few too many characters here, meaning some get very little to do. And unfortunately the biggest victim in that regard is Mahershala Ali, who only gets a few scenes but is somehow labeled as the big bad of the movie (and really, it’s more complicated than that, without spoiling it). He doesn’t get much to do or much range to showcase, compared to the Oscar-caliber performances we’ve seen from him.

And above I talked about the visual effects working for me, but I know some of you might balk at the visuals and immediately become disengaged. I’d challenge you to watch the actual film before judging because it felt to me like there were some additional layers of polish added in to make everything look a ton better than the trailers would lead you to believe.

Overall…

I had a great time with Alita: Battle Angel, probably because my expectations were low. The world is interesting, the fight sequences enthralling, and Alita herself is a really intriguing character and one I hope we see more from. The biggest disappointment is how little Mahershala Ali gets to do, a waste of his talent. If you want an adrenaline-fueled sci-fi adventure, this should do the trick for you.

4

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Review: Isn’t It Romantic

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Isn’t It Romantic.

We’ve had a lot of “women gets hit on the head” movies recently, including What Men Want and I Feel Pretty. We got another entry here with Isn’t It Romantic but the story beats might be getting a bit predictable, so let’s see if this movie can stand out from the crowd.

The gist.

Meet Natalie (Rebel Wilson), a cynic who was raised believing that love isn’t for everyone and that girls like her don’t get happy endings. She’s an architect and has a coworker (Adam Devine) who has a crush on her, though she’s oblivious, and an assistant (Betty Gilpin) who slacks off constantly. Things aren’t working out for Natalie, until she hits her head and wakes up to discover that her reality is now stolen from a romantic comedy movie, including the Australian heartthrob (Liam Hemsworth) and gay best friend (Brandon Scott Jones). Her friend Josh (Devine) meets and falls in love with a model (Priyanka Chopra). Can Natalie figure out what the lesson to learn is here? And how does she return reality to normal?

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What works?

As a comedy, this movie works. It’s clever and hilarious to both fans of romantic comedies and people that abhor them. You’ll laugh as the movie makes these choices but then acknowledges these choices, so it’s incredibly self-aware. Rebel Wilson carries the movie, but a special shoutout goes to Adam Devine, who has an incredible chemistry with her and also manages to provide both comedy and sentimentality.

In terms of how the movie is made, I appreciated the stark contrast between the two realities. It’s not just the world that’s different, but the movie is shot differently. It feels like two separate directors at work. The style totally works.

I also appreciated the soundtrack to the film, not usually something I bring up. Here, though, it deserves a mention for bringing in the best themes for romantic comedies of all time, using each one to perfect dramatic effect. It’s a playlist you’ll likely want to look up for the drive home following the movie.

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What doesn’t work?

While this movie turns the romantic comedy cliche on its head, it also ends up being just as predictable as the movies it’s making fun of, so don’t expect anything too crazy or unconventional here, it’s all pretty standard.

I wasn’t impressed with either Liam Hemsworth or Priyanka Chopra here. Maybe it’s because they were written as incredibly flat and uninteresting characters, but the actors didn’t feel as authentic in their roles and had a few cringeworthy moments.

Overall…

It’s kind of weird that Isn’t It Romantic satirizes the genre of romantic comedy but is still a fairly average example of one. It’s clever and funny, for sure, so if you’re looking for a good time at the movies, this will do it, but I don’t know if you’ll remember this movie in a few weeks time. An average score is still good, but I don’t know if this movie will end up being one of the better romantic comedies in the genre’s catalogue.

3

 

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