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Which is Better? ‘The Revenant’ Vs. ‘The Hateful Eight’

hateful eight better revenant

The Revenant is a two-and-a-half hour western that pushes the limits of cinematography and brutality in modern film.

The Hateful Eight is a three-hour western that pushes the limits of characterization and brutality in modern film.

On the surface, these movies seem very similar in terms of setting and tone, which is why many people have been comparing them in recent weeks. The truth is that these films have just as many differences as they do similarities. For example, The Revenant is a film mostly devoid of dialogue in favor of grander set piece moments. In contrast, most of The Hateful Eight is composed  dialogue, and its story rarely steps out of the confines of a small inn.

Another difference is even clearer. The Revenant is one of the most celebrated films of 2015, earning a sweep of coveted Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography (among others). The Hateful Eight was almost entirely snubbed.

But does that mean The Revenant is the better film?

My gut answer is no, without pause. The Hateful Eight is my favorite movie of 2015, with The Revenant coming nowhere near the top of my list. I thought it was above average, but nothing truly special as a whole.

Am I right about this? Or has the Academy done a better job analyzing these two films? That’s what we’re about to find out in this week’s Which is Better. I’ll break these movies down by category, evaluating which one edges out the other.

Starting with:

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

hateful eight better revenant

I decided to keep this category as broad as possible, allowing for both films to be merited based on how artistic they are. And this is no easy decision.

Emmanuel Lubezki was the cinematographer, again working with Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu after their collaboration on Birdman. And the results are pretty much the same, as film, every shot of The Revenant is downright gorgeous and even revolutionary, with the entirety of the film being shot in natural light.

Quentin Tarantino (director of The Hateful Eight) also got help from an old friend of his, Robert Richardson, who is the cinematographer behind Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained.

And in some ways, the cinematography of The Hateful Eight is just as revolutionary, as it was shot in Ultra Panavision 70 and Kodak VISION 3. Its limited release 70mm format is an experience that’s been missing from cinema since 1966’s Khartoum.

But what makes The Hateful Eight even more unique is how this 70mm format and wide aspect ratio is utilized. In the past, this type of filmmaking was popular when massive epics like Ben Hur needed that extra wide angle to show off large scale and spectacular settings. The Hateful Eight only has a handful of scenes that devote the sweeping 70mm shot to scenery, and it’s merely used to demonstrate the isolation of the characters.

Surprisingly, the majority of The Hateful Eight actually takes place indoors, which might seem like a waste of this compelling format. Yet it works incredibly well because the wide aspect ratio gives you the novel experience of a murder mystery dinner theater.

For that reason, The Hateful Eight pulls off what could have been a cheap gimmick in one of the most creative ways possible. Still, that doesn’t make it the more beautiful film.

After all, very few people actually saw The Hateful Eight in this 70mm format, unlike the widespread distribution of The Revenant. It just doesn’t stand on its own in the same way, and from a technical standpoint, The Revenant is a more stunning movie, with entire set pieces devoted to showing off Lubezki’s incredibly unique vision.

It’s a tough one, but I have to credit Lubezki for crafting a masterwork from such a grim premise and location. The Hateful Eight is also superb, but it’s just not on the same level.

The Revenant gets the first point.

BEST ACTING 

hateful eight better revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio’s hunt for an Oscar has truly become a legendary joke among movie buffs and mainstream audiences alike. In fact, much of the popularity surrounding The Revenant can arguably be explained by the widespread desire for people to see if this is his year.

And in a lot of ways, I agree with them. The Revenant absolutely showcases DiCaprio at his best, proving he’s one of the most talented actors alive. But it’s strange to root for him when you consider how little dialogue and (in some ways) character he ultimately adds to his role as Hugh Glass.

Granted, dialogue isn’t everything, and its lacking certainly doesn’t diminish the obvious commitment on DiCaprio’s part. It’s just hard to praise an actor who stares at the camera at one point, as if to Jedi Mind Trick the Academy into giving him his due.

Of course, there’s one other highlight from The Revenant, and that’s Tom Hardy’s performance as Fitzgerald. In my opinion, Hardy was vastly more memorable and entertaining, and he easily had the best quotes of the movie (not that it was much of a competition).

The Hateful Eight is almost all character, on the other hand. And that’s saying something about a movie that doesn’t really have a lead actor or actress. You’d think this would hurt its chances, but it’s actually quite admirable how well the ensemble performs with limited screen time devoted to each character.

To be fair, a few of these characters are overshadowed by the true heavyweights: Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, and Jennifer Jason Leigh all deliver extraordinary performances. If we were judging this category solely by classic one-liners, this would be an easy choice.

It’s a tough because The Revenant only has the performances of DiCaprio and Hardy to make its case, while The Hateful Eight benefits from several incredible performances offered by a much better cast, overall.

Unfortunately, you can’t weigh this choice on the sum of good performances, so I have to give this one to The Revenant. Both DiCaprio and Hardy drove their movie, while the real star of The Hateful Eight actually felt like Tarantino himself most of the time.

Second point goes to The Revenant.  

BEST CHARACTERS

hateful eight better revenant

Ah, but which movie has the best characters?

This is much easier, thanks to the horrid miscasting of Domnhall Gleeson as Captain Henry in The Revenant. Aside from Fitzgerald, none of the side stories in this movie had me wanting more (except more of Fitzgerald, perhaps).

But The Hateful Eight excels in a big way when it comes to its ensemble, as I mentioned in length earlier. You can make the argument that Michael Madsen should have been swapped out, or that Tim Roth was trying too hard to channel Christoph Waltz (an argument I wouldn’t make, personally).  But virtually everyone else in the cast was indispensable.

Aside from casting, the characters in The Hateful Eight were simply more entertaining to watch. They had multiple dimensions (usually hidden) compared to the gruff and simple survivalists in The Revenant. They actually had character arcs and grew as the film went, notably Walton Goggins’ as the Sheriff.

While the performances in The Revenant were more proficient overall, the characters in The Hateful Eight were vastly more interesting, compelling, and memorable.

The Hateful Eight wins this point handily.

BEST SCORE

hateful eight better revenant

I’ll make this quick, since many of you probably haven’t had a chance to study the score yet.

First, you’ll notice that The Revenant didn’t get an Academy Award nomination for Best Score, simply because the composer violated one of the rules for qualifying.

That said, The Hateful Eight also didn’t get nominated, despite Ennio Moriicone crafting one of his best scores in years. What to do?

I actually had to listen to the score for The Revenant after seeing the movie, because I simply forgot all of it. In contrast, I was hooked by the overture of The Hateful Eight (so, before the movie even started).

Aside from that, the song choices littered throughout were masterfully chosen by Tarantino, giving us even more reasons to rewatch the film for new meanings.

The score for The Revenant is fine and all, but it pales in comparison to The Hateful Eight, which gets the point.

BEST STORY 

hateful eight better revenant

The score is tied, and only one category remains. Between The Revenant and The Hateful Eight, which movie has the better story?

It goes without saying that both movies have simplistic set ups. The Revenant is about a hardy (no pun intended) frontiersman looking for revenge against the men who left him for dead. The Hateful Eight boils down to a group of outcasts being forced to spend time together during a blizzard.

The settings, characters, and action are what truly drive the story for both of these movies, though in their own unique ways. And what’s even more interesting is how both movies virtually eschew the typical three-act structure, to varying success.

Let’s just get this out of the way. My biggest complaint with The Revenant was, in fact, its story. Though the first act is incredibly strong with its one-two punch, the movie descends into an overlong and under-edited mess.

The story takes no significant turns, instead pitting more and more obstacles against the main character until none remain. So by the time the final climax came to a head, I had already lost all interest in the plight of Hugh Glass. In a way, I was sort of rooting for Fitzgerald. And nature. And everyone else, really.

hateful eight better revenant

Part of my issue with The Revenant was how Iñárritu handled a lot of the characterization of Hugh Glass himself. To break up the action, the writers used flashbacks and daydreams to further explain why we should care about Glass. These moments were probably meant to give us a chance to catch our breath, but they were ultimately too confusing and surreal for most people to grasp.

It’s not that these sequences were hard to understand, by the way. The issue is that using conceptual and abstract storytelling to explain a character who himself is incredibly abstract (thanks to his lack of dialogue and seemingly mythic constitution) is utterly ineffective.

The Hateful Eight couldn’t be more different. Tarantino’s screenplay for this film is a work of art, on the same level as Lubezki’s cinematography for The Revenant.

Every chapter of The Hateful Eight has a clear purpose, with each interaction between each character building toward a shocking finale that few will see coming. It’s a story that’s so engrossing, I found myself amazed that it had been three hours, not thirty minutes.

More importantly, this was a story I had never experienced. The Revenant had one-of-a-kind visuals, but its revenge story was based on a very loose adaptation of a true story. Not much of The Revenant is very surprising or jaw-dropping, save for a few spectacular “pretty” moments that aren’t well-connected.

The Hateful Eight, on the other hand, was far more original and difficult to interpret. It took a lot of analysis and critical thinking for me to find the deeper meanings masquerading as nihilism. The result, which I won’t spoil for the sake of those who haven’t seen the movie, is the simple fact that The Hateful Eight is the product of a master storyteller.

THE VERDICT

hateful eight better revenant

My final decision is that The Hateful Eight is better than The Revenant. Obviously not in every respect, as the latter has superior cinematography and more remarkable performances.

But the characters, score, and story push The Hateful Eight forward by a wide margin in their own right. So much about so much of this movie just works to near perfection, even on the note of cinematic experience. I like to bring this up a lot with these Which is Better articles, but I tend to judge a lot about a movie based on how I left the theater after watching it.

Though its easy to write off these moments as “gut reactions,” there’s truth in evaluating the experience of watching a film. The goal is for me to leave the theater feeling glad I participated in the movie, and The Hateful Eight does that and then some.

The Revenant left me cold, confused for the wrong reasons, and ultimately disappointed. It’s not a bad film, but only because so many disparate elements of it are too exceptional to write off.

So that’s where I stand. What about you? Sound off in the comments if you have something to contribute. And if you have an idea for a new Which is Better topic, be sure to send me your ideas below.

Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

 

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My Top 10 Films of 2015

top 2015 movies

2015 will be known as the year that westerns took on space operas again, and the year that audiences clamoring for more LGBT dramas want better LGBT dramas. It was the year that practical effects and 70mm film started popping up more in the conversation, dictating some of the biggest hits of the box office.

It was a great year for movies, and one I was happy to participate in as a critic. Of the 80 films I saw in 2015, I’ve curated a list of my “top” favorites. This list differs from my 2015 Movie Power Rankings, in that it isn’t dictated by grade. I’m selecting movies that I personally loved, even if they have some notable flaws holding them back.

And this list comes with a significant caveat, in that I’ve been away for the holidays. I’ve missed several new releases, like The Hateful EightThe RevenantAnomalisa, and Son of Saul. For that reason, they didn’t make the list, even though one or two of them certainly had the potential.

That said, let’s take a look at some of the best movies 2015 had to offer us, starting with:

#10 Creed

Though I was charmed by Southpaw, the other mainstream boxing movie of 2015 that starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Creed worked harder to land its punches. Starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, this mashup of an unprivileged kid turned privileged, then unprivileged again, ended up being my favorite origin story of the year.

Director Ryan Coogler could have easily defaulted to many of the same beats that have carried previous installments in the Rocky universe, but his decision to keep Stallone out of the writing room and to place more emphasis on brand new themes (like an inventive soundtrack that still manages to pay homage to the original) push Creed to incredible heights as a franchise starter.

#9 Paddington

Movies made specifically for children have a tendency to forget the rest of their audience, including the older versions of the children who love these movies in the first place. Paddington makes no such compromises, infusing a charming script with equally charming characters.

If you had to fault Paddington for anything, it would have to be the absence of any real risks. But the true achievement of this kid-friendly adventure in London is how well it sets the standard for accessible adaptations of children’s classics.

#8 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

It’s easy to pick fun at Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a film that’s deftly aware of its indie status with showy camerawork and a parade of film references that will manufacture old Hollywood nostalgia. But it’s also easy to look past its genius, as a movie that centers around a concept most coming-of-age films never get right: detachment.

This quirky summer film harkens back to The Way Way Back, another somewhat flawed movie that floored me emotionally. If you’re seeking heart mixed in with an original concept and even more original characters, then this is a must-see.

#7 Star Wars: The Force Awakens

For all of its controversy for being a mimic of past Star Wars films, you have to admit that The Force Awakens is certainly the most interesting movie of the year. It’s a film with such rich appeal and complexity, fans and haters alike are still at each other’s throats over whether or not it’s actually good.

Of course, it’s a great movie that cancels out its many flaws with even more moments of awe and spectacle during an age when practical effects and real film were on the way out. But what makes the hype around TFA worth it the most is its lovable characters we can’t wait to see more of.

Is it shameless in its premise that it doesn’t work fully as a standalone movie? Absolutely. But as Hollywood makes this fascinating transition into an industry of franchises, not movies, TFA is at least a glowing example of how to do it well.

#6 Spotlight

My favorite ensemble of the year comes from this team up of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, John Slattery, Lieve Schrieber, and others as they uncover the massive sex abuse scandal within the high ranks of the Catholic Church.

Spotlight gets you invested within the first few minutes of its interactions between journalists at the Boston Globe. Its recency in events keeps the story harrowing to think about, but it’ll stand the test of time for its adherence to the real culture behind spotlight journalism. It will hopefully inspire (and de-inspire) future journalists for years to come.

#5 Room 

Lenny Abrahamson’s film adaption of the popular novel by Emma Donoghue, Room, is one of the boldest movies of the year, and one of the most emotionally gripping, thanks to incredible performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Imagine a film in which the main character, someone who is the victim of a horrible crime, is shamed for her imperfections throughout?

Room doesn’t sugarcoat the messiness of life. People are sick, terrible, and (sometimes) good. Watching their lives play out in one of the most horrible ways possible should make you uncomfortable, but only because the connection you’ve made with the characters onscreen is genuine and hard to forget.

#4 Mad Max: Fury Road

Technology finally caught up to the insane vision of George Miller, and audiences had the privilege of seeing this post-apocalyptic masterpiece unfold in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Designed to be something worthy of the big screen, I’m unsure of how well Fury Road will translate on a tablet or flatscreen TV. But the impressive visuals, captivating lore, and truly spectacular effects will keep fans like me re-watching this future classic for years.

#3 Inside Out 

Inside Out is one of those rare movies with such an attention to detail, it’s hard to find any real flaws (CinemaSins notwithstanding). Its storytelling is actually superior to its good story, its side characters transcend the main ones, and the comedy is even more fun than some of the more emotional moments expected from a Pixar film.

In other words, Inside Out is full of surprises, a compliment I wish I could give to more films this year, animated or otherwise. It’s spirited, original, and isn’t asking for a sequel to make it relevant.

#2 It Follows

I truly wish we could have more horror films like It Follows, which trades glossy production for an earthy feel that mixes nicely with a jarring soundtrack you have to hear to believe. Though simple in its premise, It Follows can take a while to dissect, as a film about a group of teenagers in the Detroit suburbs trying to foil a persistent, shapeshifting demon.

What makes the film superb, however, is its ability to twist its own flaws into elements of the film itself. Of course these kids are morons. That’s the point. Of course that’s a plot hole. These kids are morons. As far as horror films go, It Follows is a true standout.

#1 The Good Dinosaur

For me, The Good Dinosaur will always be one of the most fascinating films of 2015. It’s a film that feels wholly imperfect in conception, but nearly perfect in execution. For that reason, I think most moviegoers gave up on the film before they could experience it in action.

The energy of this film, which is absolutely my favorite movie of 2015, comes from its harmony between story, effects, music, animation, and characters. Everything is crafted to fit, so if you don’t like one aspect of the recipe that makes up The Good Dinosaur, then there’s a chance you won’t enjoy the meal.

But more than that, The Good Dinosaur pulls off what Pixar hasn’t tried to do in ages: something completely new. As much as I love Inside Out, it ends up feeling like a standard Pixar movie. The Good Dinosaur, while clearly paying homage to many westerns, doesn’t feel like something made by Pixar, and that’s an exciting thing in and of itself. But it’s the movie’s ability to transcend its own makers that makes The Good Dinosaur my #1 pick of the year.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ex Machina
  • The Intern
  • The Martian
  • Beasts of No Nation
  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • The Gift
  • Still Alice
  • Love and Mercy

Have something to add or discuss? Sound off in the comments below.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

The Pixar Theory: How The Good Dinosaur Fits In Pixar’s Universe

the good dinosaur pixar theory

The Storm provides.

In 2013, I wrote the first draft of The Pixar Theory, an essay that makes the case for how and why every Pixar movie takes place within a shared universe.

Just this past year, I published a book that finalized this draft into a more convincing and fleshed out read that you can check out here, but you can get a decent idea of what we’re talking about by reading the original article. Just keep in mind that much of what I wrote in that first blog post has been changed and improved on over the years.

Also this year, I posted how Inside Out (Pixar’s other 2015 movie) fits into the Pixar Theory, which you can check out here for even more context.

Yeah, I know it’s a lot of reading. As we talk about The Good Dinosaur below, I’ll do my best to add refreshers from past articles, so you don’t have to keep clicking around.

Needless to say, this post contains a lot of spoilers for The Good Dinosaur, so if you haven’t watched it yet and don’t want it spoiled for you, then check back later after you’ve had a chance to see the movie. You’ve been warned. 

That said, it’s time to address a question I’ve been getting for over two years now…

THE BIG QUESTION

Does The Good Dinosaur take place in the same universe as ever other Pixar movie? Including Toy StoryFinding Nemo, and even Cars?

the good dinosaur pixar theory

We’re going to address that question and then some. But first, let’s talk about something possibly more important. Let’s talk about what The Good Dinosaur contributes to the shared Pixar universe, beyond how it potentially “fits in.”

In other words, we’re going to talk about how The Good Dinosaur makes the Pixar Universe Theory better.

For one thing, it actually answers some major questions I’ve been asking since day one of putting this theory together. And I know plenty of people have wondered this too:

WHERE DOES “MAGIC” COME FROM?

If you’re at all familiar with this theory, then you’re plenty aware of how magic plays a mysterious role in the shared universe of Pixar. But one thing I’ve never fully understood is where it’s supposed to come from in a world where animals can cook and toys can talk.

I’ve claimed in the past that the wisps of Brave are where this magic originated, or at least point to magic tying in with nature somehow. I’ve also posited that wood is a source of magic, which is certainly evident given how doors have dimension-defying capabilities in multiple Pixar movies, including Monsters Inc, and Brave.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Humans can use magic from what we’ve seen, or at least some type of it. In my book, I argue that the supers from The Incredibles received their powers through government experiments in order to be spies (at first), which would explain why they seem to have military experience and backgrounds in espionage.

But it’s unclear how technology could make a person fly. It’s unclear how Boo from Monsters Inc., could harness the magic of a door and travel through time. It’s unclear how humans of the distant future could find a magic tree with fruit that could transform them into animalistic monsters (a tidbit from the Monsters Inc., DVD).

But with The Good Dinosaur, we finally have a suitable theory for where this magic comes from, as well as a proper starting point for the Pixar Universe.

THE SET UP

The film opens 65 millions years in the past, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. The opening scene clearly shows us a world like the real one you and I live in, where animals eat from the ground and have primitive senses.

In reality, it’s believed by many that an extinction-level event is what caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs as we know them today. A predominant theory is that an asteroid wiped all of these creatures out, long before mammals like humans ever came to be.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Pixar accepts this premise and turns it on its head by proposing a world where there is no extinction of the dinosaurs because the asteroid misses Earth entirely. Millions of years later, dinosaurs are still the dominant species on a very different-looking planet, while humans are just now arriving on the scene.

One thing I love about The Good Dinosaur, by the way, is how the film doesn’t rely on any exposition to illustrate what’s taken place since the asteroid missed Earth. We just see an apatosaurus family tending to their farm. Right off the bat, we learn that dinosaurs have become the most intelligent creatures in this world, able to provide shelter, fences, and resources for themselves and other creatures.

They’re smart. They use their appendages in unique ways to ensure their survival. It’s a simple reimagining, but it’s effective. And it parallels nicely with what we’ve come to expect from future animals in the Pixar Universe, notably Remy from Ratatouille, an animal who manages to become a better chef than any other human (in Paris, at least).

So right away, The Good Dinosaur hammers the point that when left to their own devices, animals can become just as intelligent as humans, as we also see in A Bug’s Life with Flik’s inventions and ingenuity ensuring the survival of his entire community.

In the same way, the apatosaurus family of The Good Dinosaur relies on the harvesting of food to get them through a harsh winter. Arlo, the main character, is the youngest of three siblings to the apatosaurus parents who run the farm. To “earn his mark,” Arlo is given the responsibility of catching a feral critter who keeps stealing their food.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

We eventually learn that this critter is what we know as a human. He’s a small, wolf-like boy who doesn’t appear to have his own language beyond grunts, and Arlo adopts him has his pet after the two get washed away by the river, far from home.

From there, the movie shows us their long journey home, and a lot happens over the course of these few weeks. We learn quickly that this part of the world suffers from frequent storms, some of them looking like typhoons. Later, it’s evident that very few dinosaurs are around, despite the fact that they’re the most intelligent species around.

We see a few dinosaurs along the way, but only in small groups, rather than herds. Towns and settlements are apparently scarce, but still alluded to. And every dino is obsessed with survival.

Forrest, the Styracosaurs, chooses to live in the wilderness under the protection of the creatures he carries around with him. This is played off as a joke, mostly, but it shows just how harsh life is in this world for reasons that are left to the imagination.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

It’s also telling that Forrest is just as fearful as Arlo, and with good reason. There’s not much food around, and though these dinosaurs are smart, some are being born with an innate (possibly learned) sense of fear.

We certainly get a feel for how scarce resources are by the time we meet the hybrid Nyctosaurus gang, led by Thunderclap. I say hybrid because like the other dinosaurs in this film, they have many traits that have evolved from the fossils we have on these creatures. In fact, every creature in Thunderclap’s gang is a different species.

These flying creatures are a “search and rescue” team who scavenge the helpless creatures traumatized by the frequent storms. “The ‘Storm’ provides” is not just a weird catchphrase for these beasts—it’s their religion. They worship the storm for giving them much-needed food.

Isn’t it strange that Arlo got sick from eating plants that weren’t fruits like berries and corn? Millions of years earlier, we saw dinosaurs eating grass just fine, so what changed?

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Before we get to that, it’s important to point out how the T-Rex family manages to survive. They have to raise and take care of a bison herd by themselves in order to have enough food, often fighting off vicious raptors desperate for their food. And the T-Rexes are constantly on the move, which probably has something to do with how the environment is too volatile for them to settle down anywhere, as well as the fact that they have to find enough food to feed their food.

WHY?

If dinosaurs have been evolving for millions of years, then why are they having such a hard time, now? In the opening scene, there are many dinosaurs all eating together without a care in the world, so something big had to happen between those good times and the bleak world we’re introduced to countless years later.

Well, I think it’s pretty simple. These dinosaurs are living in a “post-apocalypse” of their own civilization. At one point, they probably had plentiful resources to sustain a massive population, much like you’d expect. But what we see is a shifted environment. The lush jungles filled with edible plants that we know existed millions of years ago have vanished by the time we meet Arlo, just as they would have if the asteroid had hit Earth.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

 

Simply put, the world slowly became less optimal for the dinosaurs to roam, which the movie goes out of its way to illustrate. Arlo’s family is on the brink of running out of food because rival creatures like the mammals (AKA humans) are stealing their food and thriving in this new environment. These storms are a product of this change, as the world gradually corrects the imbalance of reptiles and mammals caused by the lack of an extinction-level event.

And many years later, the same “correction” will happen between man and another new species: machine.

In other words, Pixar loves cycles. And the Pixar Universe is as cyclical as they come. It’s actually pretty amazing how a simple movie like The Good Dinosaur offers such a close parallel to stories they’ve already told, Pixar Theory or no.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER PIXAR MOVIES?

If The Good Dinosaur exists in the same timeline as movies like The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, then where’s the evidence of those movies being a result of this alternate universe where dinosaurs ruled the Earth much longer than planned?

What about fossils? Certainly, the Pixar movies would exist in a world where the fossil record is drastically different. What about these strange creatures in The Good Dinosaur that don’t look like any animals we’re aware of, like the dreaded cluckers?

Well, that’s where Up comes in.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Early on in Up, we see that the famous explorer Charles Muntz has found a place in South America filled with plants and animals “undiscovered by science.” That place is Paradise Falls (or, “The Lost World” as the narrator puts it).

And what is the prize creature that Muntz discovers? It’s no dinosaur. It’s a bird (Kevin). And this is a bird that bears resemblance to the bizarre makeup of the “prehistoric” birds and raptor-hybrids we see in The Good Dinosaur, who have originated from this alternate universe where evolution was never halted.

And that’s not where the weirdness ends. Cut from Up is the explanation for why Charles Muntz is still spry and healthy, despite being much older than 80-year-old Carl Fredericksen. According to Pixar, Muntz found Kevin’s eggs, which somehow have the ability to slow down the aging process (my book covers this in more detail, but that’s the gist).

So Kevin’s existence, as well as this rare, superhuman ability, finally has an explanation. Somehow, the longer evolution of these strange creatures brought about magic  or at least something that resembles magic — that can eventually be harnessed by humans in various ways. After all, what is it really that makes those dogs in Up talk? And is it any surprise that Muntz comes across Kevin’s existence in the 1930s, not long before the sudden rise of supers with strange abilities?

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Remember: The Incredibles takes place in an alternate version of the 1950s and 60s. Mr. Incredible was very young or even born around the same time Charles Muntz was uncovering what could be “magic” properties. This could even serve as an explanation for why academia suddenly turned on Muntz, shaming him for what we know weren’t fraudulent discoveries. Perhaps this was a ploy to keep his research hidden from the world, explaining why only Americans are shown to have powers in The Incredibles.

Sometimes I get goosebumps when these things fit together a little too nicely.

OK, what about the strange animals mentioned earlier? Well, when we explore the dirigible in Up, Muntz shows off his collection of these strange creatures that are so rare, Muntz doesn’t expect Carl to know what they are.

They range from giant turtles and other aquatic life to hybrid mammal/dinosaurs that are reminiscent of Forrest from The Good Dinosaur. And we can now deduce that in the Pixar Universe, many of these creatures existed closer together in time, explaining why they’re displayed as a group.

Side note: One of the reasons I’ve waited to add all of this to the Pixar Theory is because I’m still researching how these creatures connect to other movies, including the angler fish that looks just like the one we see in Finding Nemo.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

So the exotic creatures from The Good Dinosaur apparently exist across multiple Pixar movies, and the absence of an extinction-level event seemingly provides an explanation for why animals have become so intelligent by the time we get to movies like Ratatouille.  And the movie even provides some hints as to why magic exists in the Pixar Universe, and we now know why said universe is alternate to our own.

Is that it?

Ha, no.

FOSSILS AND FUELS.

Oil. It’s something that Axelrod from Cars 2 addresses as the very thing we get from fossils, which he specifically defines as “dead dinosaurs.” But for whatever reason, the world runs out of oil in the Pixar Universe much sooner than we would by today’s standards.

Drilling the way we are today, there’s probably 50-100 years of oil left, which obviously excludes methods that dig much deeper. So really, we’re just running low on cheap oil.

In Cars 2, the sentient cars are running out of oil, entirely. And this makes sense for two major reasons:

  1. Mankind has a 200 billion population by 2105 (according to WALL-E)
  2. There’s less oil on Earth because (whoops!) dinosaurs died out more gradually.

Fossil fuels bring life to us from dead organisms, and we get a lot of it from extinction-events that compact them for easier extraction through drilling (for the record, my knowledge on this topic goes about as far as Armageddon).

Without the asteroid, fossil fuels are a bust.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

In The Incredibles, technology has progressed more rapidly by the 1950s, likely because scientists are seeking solutions to this energy crisis. Syndrome finds a way to harness zero-point energy, and “human” energy will be extracted by toys and eventually monsters indefinitely. The absence of other energy options like fossil fuels might provide an explanation for why human energy is so important in the Pixar Universe.

Yet in WALL-E, mankind lives in a loop for hundreds of years aboard starliners like the Axiom. They harness solar energy with advanced technology that allows them to avoid the laws of entropy (and you can argue that the machines are also kept alive by the humans themselves).

All this points to a world that figured out (much faster) that it needs an alternative to fossil fuels, which is why humanity is still around hundreds of years after the cars die out.

THE LEGACY OF DINOCO.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

So in the Pixar Universe, dinosaurs eventually die out because the world changes without them. But they’re remembered, nonetheless, mostly because humans have passed down their memories of the once predominant species.

By the time we get to “modern Pixar,” there are companies like Dinoco that use these forerunners as their logo. Toys like Rex and Trixie get played with, just as they would in our world. There are even statues in Inside Out that look like dinosaurs we see in the movie.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

The major difference is that in The Good Dinosaur, there’s a specific “passing of the torch” moment between Arlo and Spot. The symbolism is actually tragic in a way, as we see Arlo giving Spot over to a human family willing to adopt him. Unlike Spot, these humans wear furs instead of leaves and alternate between walking on all fours and standing upright, even teaching Spot how to do it by guiding him. This moment crystalizes the rise of mankind in contrast to the dinosaurs, who are quite literally on their last legs.

After all, Arlo will return to his farm and eke out a pretty humble existence as a herbivore. His family will barely survive, as his mother tells him bluntly early in the movie. Meanwhile, humans are already hunting and living off of the newer resources tailor-made for mammals. Pixar could have easily left these implications out, but instead they shine a light on the important role mankind will take up as the world continues to change.

That said, I suspect there are more mysteries to solve here. We have millions of years of history between The Good Dinosaur and Brave, so you can expect brand new narratives to rise out of those films as the studio continues to deliver excellent movies more than worthy of our time.

WRAPPING UP.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

That’s the long version of how The Good Dinosaur fits within the narrative of The Pixar TheoryBut I hope you’ve also gotten some insight into why it’s so important to the theory, in a way that not even Inside Out was able to accomplish, though it also was quite enlightening.

With The Good Dinosaur, we have firm answers for some of the biggest questions many have come across when digging into this theory. It gives us a reason why everything in Pixar movies is so different and set apart from reality. It alludes to the mysteries of magic with a little help from Up, further providing connections I didn’t think we’d ever get.

And we even got Dreamcrusher.

I hope you enjoyed the movie itself as much as I did. My full review is also available in case you’re not already tired of reading, which you can check out here. You’ve probably noticed by now that I’m absolutely in love with The Good Dinosaur, and the review expands more on all of that.

As for the easter eggs, this movie has proven to be quite the challenge when it comes to finding the elusive Pizza Planet Truck and A113. Peter Sohn (director of the movie) confirmed they’re in there somewhere, albeit in clever ways similar to how Brave managed it. I haven’t caught them yet, but I’ve heard the truck shows up as either a rock formation or an optical illusion from the positioning of several rocks and debris. Be sure to share your findings.

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, and rebuttals in the comments, and I’ll do my best to clear anything up!

Ready for more?

The conspiring doesn’t end here. Check out my other Pixar Theory posts from infinity to beyond:

  • The Pixar Theory – the full book available on paperback and ebook via Kindle, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, or just a PDF. This will cover the entire theory and every movie in the Pixar universe, updated from what you just read.

Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my mailing list.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

My Top 10 Movies of Summer 2015

top movies 2015

Back in May, I shared my top 10 movies of 2015 as of January through May. This included movies that came out over the winter and spring, including early summer hits like Avengers: Age of UltronMad Max, and other well-liked films I’ve already highlighted.

Well, we’re about 35 weeks into 2015, and we still have a lot of potentially great movies to look forward to as the year continues, including a new James Bond movie made by Sam Mendes (Spectre). We have a spy thriller coming out that’s directed by Steven Spielberg, written by the Coen brothers, and starring Tom Hanks.

And of course, there’s a new Star Wars movie due in December, as well as a new Tarantino movie, a Matt Damon movie that doesn’t look terrible, Bradley Cooper as a chef in Burnt, Tom Hardy playing two roles in one movie, and Leonardo DiCaprio in a role that might finally get him an Oscar.

top movies 2015
I mean, maybe.

But let’s pause and reflect over the movies we already saw this summer. I’m of course sharing my own top 10 movies, but feel free to share your own list in the comments, especially if you’ve seen something I haven’t.

So let’s get started. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include any movies from May. That means great films like Mad Max: Fury Road are in my previous top list for the first third of the year. Enjoy!

#10  The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

top movies 2015

This is the only movie on my list that I gave a B minus, but I’m still happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a thrilling spy adventure with a soundtrack better than the actual film. This is also a good watch for anyone curious to see how Henry Cavill performs during the post-Man of Steel era in anticipation for next year’s big-budget superhero fusion, Dawn of Justice.

But I’m more excited to point out how much I liked Armie Hammer in this, especially since this was his chance to shine post-Lone Ranger. And then there’s Alicia Vikander, who has nothing to prove (yet) thanks to her brilliant role in Ex Machina, and we still have a slew of other films she’s set to star in this year alone.

That said, U.N.C.L.E. suffers from a pretty generic plot, but its good characters, memorable scenes, and commitment to 60s era spy themes is well-worth a watch on DVD. Even though I’ve ranked other movies better than this one, like The Diary of a Teenage Girl, I can’t help but recommend this one as a flawed, but fun, escape.

#9 Straight Outta Compton

top movies 2015

This is another recent hit and one of Universal’s biggest as the summer comes to a close (even compared to Minions and  Jurassic World). And it makes my list for managing to capture my interest in a true story that I didn’t care much about before watching the film.

The story of N.W.A. gave me an appreciation for a cultural era and art form I never paid much attention to growing up, and it was a powerful piece of storytelling. Looking back, I still remember the dynamic performances (notably including O’Shea Jackson) and excellent visuals that captured the world of this racially charged rags-to-riches story.

I only scored it a B, mostly because while the first half is certainly A material, the last hour and a half tends to meander and lose focus. Weirdly, this is apparently intentional, as it illustrates the slow, downward spiral of some N.W.A. rappers contrasting with the successful ones. Still, that doesn’t excuse pacing issues and the film coming off as imbalanced.

#8 Southpaw

top movies 2015

What was a middle-of-the-road and cliched boxing movie to some ended up being one of my favorite boxing films in years. This is despite plenty of problems that hold Southpaw back from showcasing what’s truly great about Jake Gyllenhaal as an actor and instead reminding us that this is the director who gave us Olympus has Fallen (another mediocre movie I still managed to enjoy).

Southpaw borrows a lot of its good material plot points from classic boxing films,  especially Rocky 3 and 4. But Gyllenhaal’s transformation in the role and the filmmaker’s ability to translate his bleak downfall through powerful images and humbling atmospheres added something new and interesting to the genre. It really felt like a modern boxing movie, unlike modern takes on older stories, like The Fighter.

I greatly enjoyed the melodrama and powerful imagery Southpaw managed to pull off, and the performances by some of the side characters, including the daughter played by Oona Lawrence, more than carried the film to some greatness.

#7 Digging for Fire

top movies 2015

Joe Swanberg can be a polarizing director, but I’ve always found an energetic sincerity in his work, especially with recent films like Drinking BuddiesHappy Christmas, and All the Light in the Sky.

This year, Swanberg once again teamed up with New Girl‘s Jake Johnson to cowrite Digging for Fire, a scavenger hunt movie that digs deep into the psyche behind a frustrated marriage, told from the perspectives of both partners.

Rosemarie Dewitt plays the wife in this marriage, and Jude Swanberg (the director’s child) plays their young son. Throughout, there are multiple surprise appearances from great actors, including some I won’t spoil. Part of the fun in Digging for Fire, aside from its unapologetic ad-lib dialogue, is waiting to see who will show up next. It’s a quirky drama that I happily recommend.

#6 Ant-Man

top movies 2015

I didn’t like Ant-Man more than Avengers: Age of Ultron. In fact, I wouldn’t put it above most Marvel movies, yet for whatever reason, people seem to really like this movie more than it probably deserves.

It’s humorous, fun to watch, and manages to be a refreshing take on a well-respected (if not horribly popular) Marvel superhero. And it features some good ideas courtesy of Edgar Wright. But it’s certainly not as deep and impactful as one of the ensemble movies, and I include last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy when I say that.

Ant-Man is one of my favorite movies of the summer, and it’s a can’t-miss for Marvel fans and even Paul Rudd fans. This is mostly because Ant-Man is weird and funny enough to stand on its own, despite borrowing some of its charm and surprises from the greater Marvel continuity. And that’s fine, at least for now.

#5 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

top movies 2015

Of all the spy movies (and there’s a lot) that came out this year, the aging veteran, Mission: Impossible  still shines as one of the best. Once again, Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get at this point if you’re into Mission: Impossible movies.

But unlike other action franchises like Fast and Furious, this one continues to deliver something new with every installment, aside from just raising the stakes. The stunts, actually, are a huge part of what draws audiences, and the creative set pieces are far more interesting than everything I forgot in other action movies like Furious 7.

There was a lot of tension, a good amount of drama, and even some laughs here and there courtesy of Jeremy Renner. Rogue Nation also benefitted from the genius casting of Rebecca Ferguson and bringing back Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg for another round of saving the world with gadgets that don’t always work and a leading man who’ll do whatever it takes to finish the mission. Kind of like Tom Cruise himself.

#4 Jurassic World

top movies 2015

I don’t want to come off like I’m overpraising this movie, though that’s inevitable considering how high I’ve put it on this list. But despite everything about Jurassic World that is frankly…stupid…I absolutely loved it.

Yes, it’s a little silly, and it’s certainly not as good as Jurassic Park. But so much of Jurassic World just works as a movie on its own, so I didn’t have a hard time judging it by its own merits, instead of comparing it to the original.

Jurassic World is a unique follow up in that it’s hard to notice its flaws unless you’re looking for them. It was easy for me to get lost in the world they created, making this an excellent movie that you might get a little more cynical about the more you watch it. Unless you’re like me and enjoy its absurdity with every viewing.

#3 The Stanford Prison Experiment 

top movies 2015

Not everyone is going to walk away glad that they watched The Stanford Prison Experiment (unless they despise Ezra Miller as much as I do). But it’s still the most gripping and tense movie I’ve seen all year, complete with a script that continues to haunt me when I dare think about it late at night.

In case you haven’t seen it, the movie is based on a true story about a group of college students who are hired by a psychology department to act out a prison simulation. Some of the students are guards, and the others are prisoners. As you can imagine, things get a little out of hand.

It’s a hard movie to watch, because as you watch it, you know that it’s sticking with you. This is thanks to director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s knack for moving you through a compact scene and keeping you there for what feels like hours. He lets the camerawork and tight corners tell the story almost as much as the actions of the characters.

To be fair, the movie is riddled with inaccuracies and missed opportunities with the true events that inspired it. But if you walk in accepting that this is a very loose adaptation, you’ll still find that it more or less captures the same, raw emotions that provoked so much shock from the people who learned about it in the 70s.

#2 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

top movies 2015

If you liked Fault in Our Stars but sort of wished it had more likable characters, then do yourself a favor and check out Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I strongly considered making it my #1, and it’s obviously up there in my top 10 of the entire year. And for good reason.

This is one of those smaller films that just oozes charm and relatable characters. Everyone in this movie is easy to like and get invested in. The story itself is more than just original — it’s inventive. I truly wish that more movies would take the creative chances that Dying Girl treats as minuscule risks.

That said, it’s still a movie on a small scale. While I loved the movie, it didn’t really cause any introspection, despite its emotionally charged script. This is because the wit and humor is a lot more present in this movie over what’s dramatic, so not every moment that was supposed to make me feel something managed to pay that off.

But that’s just nitpicking, because Dying Girl is still a wonderful story that will hopefully last the test of time. I hold it up there with The Way Way Back as compact films I can watch a thousand times.

#1 Inside Out

top movies 2015

Yeah, yeah, big surprise. A lot of you may look at this decision and shrug because you know how much I love Pixar movies and frequently talk about them on this site. But please believe me when I say that my overwhelming bias for Pixar’s brand of storytelling had nothing to do with the overwhelming bias I have for this film.

Because in all honesty, Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best films since The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, and it manages to rival Up as a nearly perfect Pixar movie.

I love how they took a recognizable premise that other movies and shows like Osmosis Jones and Herman’s Head failed to make an impact. They took a great concept and made it spectacular. Everything about this world Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera created feels like they spent countless hours developing. And the writing is so sharp, you’ll discover new and clever jokes every time you watch it.

The characters are well-written and the animation is gorgeous. Every joke manages to work without being too cheesy. And it does all of this without creating world-changing stakes — just the emotional future of a young girl we can all relate with.

When I first reviewed the movie, I tried hard not to overpraise it in case my immediate love for it would wear of. But Inside Out only gets better the more you watch it, and it will rightfully be considered as one of Pixar’s very best for years to come.

What about the worst movies?

top movies 2015

This one’s harder for me to spend time on because I purposefully avoided some of the poorly received movies that came out this summer, though I’ll probably still get around to them. But I’m still up for pointing out movies I did see that fell way, way, short of the mark.

Hitman: Agent 47 was the worst one I saw this summer, as I gave it an F (the only other “F” movie I scored this year was Strange Magic). There were some other movies that I tried hard to like but ended up despising, like TrainwreckSpy, and Aloha.

There were some bad movies I liked, including The Gallows and Ted 2, despite critics not loving them as much. Movies I hoped would be “A” material, like Paper Towns and Dope, ended up only being decent.

And then there are the movies I purposefully avoided, like PixelsVacationTerminator: GenisysSelf/less, and Minions. I don’t plan on seeing these movies any time soon. That just leaves Fantastic Four, which was less than decent, but not a bad experience overall for me.

Finally, there are the potentially great movies I haven’t seen yet but plan on seeing pretty soon. These include, The End of the Tour, It FollowsThe GiftGrandmaLove and Mercy, Mistress America and Shaun the Sheep.

Oh, and if you want a more ambitious snapshot of every 2015 movie and how they stack up, check out my 2015 Movie Power Rankings. 

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

2015 Movie Power Rankings

2015 movie rank

Welcome to my first-ever power rankings for a year in film! This list is essentially a snapshot of 2015’s entire year in film, ranked with letter grades.

The first list below includes only the movies that I’ve personally viewed and graded. There’s a second list that combines my rankings with the opinions of several other critics I’ve chosen, giving you a full breadth of movies that were released this year. These “third party” reviews are colored gray.

I update these rankings weekly, so you can check back once in a while to see what’s new. I’ve already updated rankings for films I missed and managed to catch up with. Be sure to let me know if I missed something. Enjoy!

2015 Movies I’ve Seen, Ranked

  1. The Good Dinosaur (November 25th) | A+
  2. It Follows (March 27th) | A+
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15th) | A+
  4. The Hateful Eight 70mm Roadshow (December 25th) | A
  5. Inside Out (June 19th) | A
  6. Room (November 6th) | A
  7. Spotlight (November 6th) | A
  8. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (June 12th) | A
  9. Paddington (January 16th) | A
  10. The Martian (October 2nd) | A
  11. Beasts of No Nation (October 16th) | A
  12. Creed (November 25th) | A
  13. The Intern (September 25) | A
  14. Ex Machina (April 24th) | A
  15. What We Do In the Shadows (February 13th) | A
  16. Brooklyn (November 6th) | A-
  17. Steve Jobs (October 9th) | A-
  18. Bridge of Spies (October 16th) | A-
  19. Sleeping With Other People (September 25th) | A-
  20. The Stanford Prison Experiment (July 17th) | A-
  21. Sicario (October 2nd) | A-
  22. The Gift (August 7th) | A-
  23. Carol (November 20th) | A-
  24. Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13th) | A-
  25. Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1st) | A-
  26. Selma (January 9th) | A-
  27. The Visit (September 11th) | A-
  28. Still Alice (January 16th) | A-
  29. Anomalisa (December 30th) | B+
  30. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (December 18th) | B+
  31. Jurassic World (June 12th) | B+
  32. Love & Mercy (June 19th) | B+
  33. The Big Short (December 11th) | B+
  34. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (July 31st) | B+
  35. Ant-Man (July 17th) | B+
  36. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (November 20th) | B+
  37. Spectre (November 6th) | B+
  38. 99 Holmes (September 25th) | B+
  39. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (September 18) | B+
  40. While We’re Young (April 17th) | B+
  41. Digging for Fire (August 21st) | B+
  42. Krampus (December 5th) | B+
  43. Diary of a Teenage Girl (August 7th) | B+
  44. Southpaw (July 24th) | B
  45. Crimson Peak (October 16th) | B
  46. Straight Outta Compton (August 14th) | B
  47. The Night Before (November 20th) | B
  48. Black Mass (September 18th) | B
  49. Furious 7 (April 3) | B
  50. Unexpected (July 24th) | B
  51. Clouds of Sils Maria (July 14th) | B
  52. Cinderella (March 13th) | B
  53. People Places Things (August 14th) | B
  54. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (August 14th) | B-
  55. The Revenant (December 25th) | B-
  56. Cooties (September 18th) | B-
  57. Ted 2 (June 26th) | B-
  58. Burnt (October 30th) | B-
  59. Unfriended (April 17th) | B-
  60. The DUFF (February 20th) | B-
  61. Tomorrowland (May 22nd) | B-
  62. Focus (February 27th) | B-
  63. Goosebumps (October 16th) | C+
  64. Paper Towns (July 24th) | C+
  65. The Gallows (July 10th) | C+
  66. Hotel Transylvania 2 (September 25th) | C+
  67. True Story (August 4th) | C+
  68. Dope (June 19th) | C+
  69. Project Almanac (January 30th) | C+
  70. Fantastic Four (August 7th) | C+
  71. The Wedding Ringer (January 16th) | C
  72. Spy (June 5th) | C
  73. In the Heart of the Sea (December 11th) | C
  74. Grandma (August 21st) | C
  75. The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water (February 6th) | C-
  76. Chappie (March 6th) | C-
  77. Trainwreck (July 17th) | D+
  78. Aloha (May 29th) | D+
  79. The Transporter Refueled (September 4th) | D+
  80. Lazarus Effect (February 27th) | D
  81. Insurgent (March 20th)| D
  82. Pan (October 9th)  D-
  83. Home (March 27th) | D-
  84. Jupiter Ascending (February 6th) | D-
  85. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (October 23rd) | F
  86. Hitman: Agent 47 (August 21st) | F
  87. Strange Magic (January 23rd) | F

FULL List of Films Ranked By Multiple Critics

  1. The Good Dinosaur (November 25th) | A+
  2. It Follows (March 27th) | A+
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15th) | A+
  4. The Hateful Eight 70mm Roadshow (December 25th) | A
  5. Inside Out (June 19th) | A
  6. Room (November 6th) | A
  7. Spotlight (November 6th) | A
  8. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (June 12th) | A
  9. Shaun the Sheep (August 5th) | A
  10. The Assassin (October 16th) | A
  11. GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (February 13th) | A
  12. 3 and 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets (June 19th) | A
  13. Phoenix (July 24th) | A
  14. Paddington (January 16th) | A
  15. The Martian (October 2nd) | A
  16. Beasts of No Nation (October 16th) | A
  17. Creed (November 25th) | A
  18. The Intern (September 25) | A
  19. Ex Machina (April 24th) | A
  20. What We Do In the Shadows (February 13th) | A
  21. ’71 (February 27th) | A
  22. Creep (September 4th) | A
  23. About Elly (April 8th) | A
  24. The ve ok of Silence (July 17th) | A
  25. Brooklyn (November 6th) | A-
  26. Steve Jobs (October 9th) | A-
  27. Bridge of Spies (October 16th) | A-
  28. 45 Years (December 22nd) | A-
  29. Sleeping With Other People (September 25th) | A-
  30. The Stanford Prison Experiment (July 17th) | A-
  31. Sicario (October 2nd) | A-
  32. Mr. Holmes (July 17th) | A-
  33. The Gift (August 7th) | A-
  34. Carol (November 20th) | A-
  35. Son of Saul (December 18th) | A-
  36. Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13th) | A-
  37. Brooklyn (November 4th) | A-
  38. Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1st) | A-
  39. Selma (January 9th) | A-
  40. James White (November 13th) | A-
  41. Hard to be a God (January 30th) | A-
  42. The Visit (September 11th) | A-
  43. Still Alice (January 16th) | A-
  44. The End of the Tour (July 31st) | A-
  45. Fort Tilden (August 15th) | A-
  46. The Last 5 Years (February 13th) | A-
  47. Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll (April 22nd) | A-
  48. The Duke of Burgundy (January 23rd) | A-
  49. Anomalisa (December 30th) | B+
  50. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (December 18th) | B+
  51. Jurassic World (June 12th) | B+
  52. Love & Mercy (June 19th) | B+
  53. The Big Short (December 11th) | B+
  54. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (July 31st) | B+
  55. Queen of Earth (August 26th) | B+
  56. Ant-Man (July 17th) | B+
  57. Mustang (November 20th) | B+
  58. The Peanuts Movie (November 6th) | B+
  59. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (November 20th) | B+
  60. Spectre (November 6th) | B+
  61. The Boy and the World (December 9th) | B+
  62. 99 Holmes (September 25th) | B+
  63. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (September 18th) | B+
  64. McFarland USA (February 20th) | B+
  65. Ballet 422 (February 6th) | B+
  66. While We’re Young (April 17th) | B+
  67. Mistress America (August 14th) | B+
  68. Far From the Madding Crowd (May 1st) | B+ 
  69. Pawn Sacrifice (September 16th) | B+
  70. Digging for Fire (August 21st) | B+
  71. Dior and I (April 9th) | B+
  72. Krampus (December 5th) | B+
  73. Beloved Sisters (January 9th) | B+
  74. A Most Violent Year (January 30th) | B+
  75. Breathe (September 10th) | B+
  76. Diary of a Teenage Girl (August 7th) | B+
  77. Goodnight Mommy (September 11th) | B+
  78. Southpaw (July 24th) | B
  79. Crimson Peak (October 16th) | B
  80. Straight Outta Compton (August 14th) | B
  81. Tales of Halloween (October 16th) | B
  82. Youth (December 5th) | B
  83. The Walk (October 2nd) | B
  84. The Night Before (November 20th) | B
  85. Black Mass (September 18th) | B
  86. Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15th) | B
  87. Furious 7 (April 3) | B
  88. Life (December 5th) | B
  89. Everest (September 18th) | B
  90. Heart of a Dog (October 21st) | B
  91. Unexpected (July 24th) | B
  92. Clouds of Sils Maria (July 14th) | B
  93. Cinderella (March 13th) | B
  94. People Places Things (August 14th) | B
  95. Insidious: Chapter 3 (June 15th) | B
  96. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (August 14th) | B-
  97. The Revenant (December 25th) | B-
  98. The New Girlfriend (September 18th) | B-
  99. Truth (October 16th) B-
  100. American Ultra (August 21st) | B-
  101. Cooties (September 18th) | B-
  102. Freeheld (October 2nd) | B-
  103. Ted 2 (June 26th) | B-
  104. Trumbo (November 6th) | B-
  105. Burnt (October 30th) | B-
  106. Sisters (December 18th) | B-
  107. Unfriended (April 17th) | B-
  108. MacBeth (December 5th) | B-
  109. The DUFF (February 20th) | B-
  110. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (March 6th) | B-
  111. Tomorrowland (May 22nd) | B-
  112. Run All Night (March 13th) | B-
  113. Welcome to Leith (September 10th) | B-
  114. Focus (February 27th) | B-
  115. Ricki and the Flash (August 7th) | B-
  116. The Danish Girl (November 27th) | C+
  117. Goosebumps (October 16th) | C+
  118. Concussion (December 25th) | C+
  119. Daddy’s Home (December 25th) | C+
  120. Paper Towns (July 24th) | C+
  121. The Last Witch Hunter (October 23rd) | C+
  122. The Gallows (July 10th) | C+
  123. Joy (December 25th) | C+
  124. Hotel Transylvania 2 (September 25th) | C+
  125. Suffragette (October 23rd) | C+
  126. Slow West (May 15th) | C+
  127. True Story (August 4th) | C+
  128. Hotel Transylvania 2 (September 25th) | C+
  129. Dope (June 19th) | C+
  130. Project Almanac (January 30th) | C+
  131. Meet the Patels (September 11th) | C+
  132. Fantastic Four (August 7th) | C+
  133. Legend (November 20th) | C+
  134. Magic Mike XXL (July 1st) | C+
  135. The Wedding Ringer (January 16th) | C
  136. A Walk in the Woods (September 4th) | C
  137. Spy (June 5th) | C
  138. Age of Adaline (April 24th) | C
  139. Secret in their Eyes (November 20th) | C
  140. Victor Frankenstein (November 25th) | C
  141. Cymbeline (March 13th) | C
  142. In the Heart of the Sea (December 11th) | C
  143. Miss You Already (November 6th) | C
  144. Chi-Raq (December 5th) C
  145. Extraction (December 25th) | C
  146. The Longest Ride (April 10th) | C
  147. Our Brand is Crisis (October 30th) | C
  148. Woman in Gold (April 1st)| C
  149. Grandma (August 21st) | C
  150. No Escape (August 26th) | C
  151. The Lady in the Van (December 5th) | C
  152. By the Sea (November 5th) | C
  153. Time Out Of Mind (September 9th) | C
  154. Minions (July 10th) | C
  155. San Andreas (May 29th) | C
  156. Where to Invade Next (December 22) | C
  157. The Cut (September 18th) | C
  158. Captive (September 19th) | C
  159. The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water (February 6th) | C-
  160. The Emperor’s New Clothes (December 16th) | C-
  161. Chappie (March 6th) | C-
  162. Love the Coopers (November 13th) | C-
  163. Spare Parts (January 16th) | C-
  164. Child 44 (April 17th) | C-
  165. Get Hard (March 27th) | C-
  166. A Brilliant Young Mind (September 10th) | C-
  167. Blackhat (January 16th)| C-
  168. Before We Go (September 4th) | C-
  169. The Ridiculous 6 (December 11th) | C-
  170. Hellions (September 18th) | C-
  171. Shanghai (October 2nd) | C-
  172. Entourage (June 3rd) | C-
  173. Rock the Kasbah (October 23rd) | C-
  174. Wolf Totem (September 12th) | C-
  175. The Letters (December 5th) | C-
  176. Don Verdean (December 11th) | C-
  177. The D Train (May 8th)| C-
  178. We are Your Friends (August 28th) | C-
  179. Trainwreck (July 17th) | D+
  180. Aloha (May 29th) | D+
  181. The Gunman (March 20th) | D+
  182. Poltergeist (May 22) | D+
  183. 90 Minutes in Heaven (September 12th) | D+
  184. The Transporter Refueled (September 4th) | D+
  185. Max (June 26th) | D+
  186. Point Break (December 25th) | D+
  187. Little Boy (April 24th) | D+
  188. Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (October 30th) | D+
  189. The Perfect Guy (September 12th) | D+
  190. Vacation (July 29th) | D
  191. Terminator Genisys (July 1st) | D
  192. Self/less (July 10th) | D
  193. Unfinished Business (March 6th) | D
  194. The Green Inferno (September 25th) | D
  195. Lazarus Effect (February 27th) | D
  196. Kill Me Three Times (April 9th) | D
  197. Insurgent (March 20th)| D
  198. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (December 18th) | D
  199. Serena (February 26th) | D
  200. Fifty Shades of Grey (February 13th) | D
  201. Jem and the Holograms (October 23rd) | D
  202. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (February 20th) | D
  203. Sinister 2 (August 21st) | D-
  204. Pan (October 9th)  D-
  205. Pixels (July 24th) | D-
  206. Absolutely Anything (August 14th) | D-
  207. Hot Pursuit (May 8th) | D-
  208. Home (March 27th) | D-
  209. Jupiter Ascending (February 6th) | D-
  210. Return to Sender (August 14th) | D-
  211. Mortdecai (January 23rd) | D-
  212. Survivor (June 5th) | D-
  213. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (April 17th) | D-
  214. The Boy Next Door (January 23rd) | D-
  215. Accidental Love (February 10th) | D-
  216. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (October 23rd) | F
  217. Hitman: Agent 47 (August 21st) | F
  218. Strange Magic (January 23rd) | F

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Comic-Con 2015 Roundup (Podcast)

comic-con

This week on the Now Conspiring podcast, I’m joined by Adonis Gonzalez, Kayla Savage, and Maria Garcia as we cover the best news and announcements coming out of this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego.

Unfortunately, we recorded the podcast just before the trailers for Batman v SupermanDeadpool, and Suicide Squad, so we don’t cover any of those big moments. Still, we cover a ton of relevant news for you guys to dig your teeth into. It’s basically like you’re really there. Or your ears, at least.

Go on…Comic-Con 2015 Roundup (Podcast)

My Top 10 Movies of 2015 (So Far)

Summer is about to kickoff, so I thought it would be fun to look back on the best films of Winter and Spring 2015. There are a few films I haven’t seen this year (yet) that may sway this list, and I’ll list them at the bottom.

I’ve made a stronger effort to watch more new movies this year, and it’s certainly paid off. For the first time in my life, I actually feel equipped to evaluate which movies are worth highlighting 6 months into the year. And we’ve gotten quite a few highlights. Starting with…

# 1 Mad Max: Fury Road

top 2015 movies

This shouldn’t surprise too many people. From its opening scene, George Miller had me hooked on his crazy, post-apocalyptic nightmare made reality.

With some of the best action scenes in years, combined with furious performances from Charlize Theron (get it?) and Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road has so far made the top of my list of must-watch films in 2015.

#2 Paddington

top 2015 movies

OK, this is certainly a departure from the #1 spot, and I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes at the fact that I’m elevating this family friendly movie all the way to #2, but hear me out.

Paddington is a kid movie done right, amidst scores of cheap remakes and strange misfires disguised as high-level (I’m looking at you, Spongebob). Simply put, Paddington has the charm, wit, and effortless script that most movies this year have chosen to skip.

#3 Ex Machina

top 2015 movies

I usually hate feeling uncomfortable during a movie, especially when it has CGI Paul Walker involved (too soon?) But Ex Machina subverts what we expect in an eery movie about artificial intelligence without insulting our intelligence.
It’s not a horror movie. It’s not a thriller. And it’s certainly not just a commentary, if at all. The mystery of what makes this movie…what it is…only makes me love it even more.

#4 What We Do In The Shadows

top 2015 movies

Technically, this superb “mockumentary” about the lives of vampires living in New Zealand came out last year, but it’s wider release didn’t kick off until January. That means I get to share the delight of this monster movie homage with all of you who haven’t managed to see it yet. Seriously though, get on that.

#5 Kingsman: The Secret Service

top 2015 movies

Speaking of homages, I wasn’t too surprised to see that this James Bond action successor ended up being one of the most fun adventures of the year. Yes, even moreso than another certain superhero flick…
I can still remember the best moments of the film, including the controversial church scene that was shot in just one take (if you can believe that). While I’m not necessarily itching for a sequel, though it would be nice, Kingsman still reigns as one of the year’s most interesting escapes.

#6 Selma

top 2015 movies

History is my weak spot. Take me to any colonial town and tell me that guy is really a smith from 1776 and you have my money. But historical biopics from any era tend to rank low on my attention span. Why watch a movie about that bridge in Selma when I can just go there?
Well, it turns out, Selma does a brilliant job of revitalizing this subject matter with faithful storytelling, a chilling script, and yes, David Oyelowo. And that’s not even mentioning the soundtrack.

#7 Avengers: Age of Ultron

top 2015 movies

It’s not as groundbreaking as the first film, but it’s still groundbreaking. Leave it to Marvel. 2015 has not yet hit us with a lot of comic book movie adventures, as Fox has saved its movie for the summer and Sony is conspicuously absent.
But even without competition, Age of Ultron is a triumph of patient buildup, electric characters, and an excellent effects budget. It’s not the dark story many of us expected and hoped for, but it had plenty of memorable moments to make it standout, even if it is just a trailer for even more exciting events to come.

#8 While We’re Young

top 2015 movies

I’ll admit I’m easily charmed by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts (despite finding Birdman a bit meh for her). So pairing these veterans with relative newcomers Adam Driver (of future Star Wars fame) and Amanda Seyfried (OK, not a newcomer, but still untested for the most part) was almost overkill.
Specifically, every scene combining these characters or a mixing and matching them was pulled off brilliantly, and it helps that the script had something pretty meaningful to say about my generation, your generation, and their generation.

#9 Unfriended

top 2015 movies

Do you believe in miracles? Unfriended was a made-for-tv movie destined for MTV reruns and live-tweets. But it ended up being transformed into a perfectly timed film that did something pretty novel and refreshing with the horror genre, while also preaching a sermon on cyber-bullying that didn’t come off as forced. Well, maybe a little.

#10 Tomorrowland

top 2015 movies

Yeah, I might get a little heat for this one. Though Tomorrowland certainly isn’t amazing overall, it happens to be one of the riskiest, gutsiest movies of the year. And a lackluster ending doesn’t do enough to eviscerate an inventive and entertaining first two acts.

Possibly great films I haven’t gotten around to yet:

I’d love to add to this list, but alas, there are just some 2015 films I haven’t had a chance to see for myself yet. Here are a few ranking high on my list of must-see:

  1. It Follows
  2. ‘71
  3. A Most Violent Year
  4. Still Alice
  5. Girlhood

I also want to point out my biggest disappointment of the year (so far): Chappie. Oh, what could have been.

If you something to add to this list, feel free to let me know in the comment discussions below. See you in another 6 months.

Thanks for reading! If you like this blog, you can subscribe for weekly updates by clicking the “Subscribe” button on the right sidebar. Or just follow me on Twitter for the latest updates – @JonNegroni

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