Written & Directed by Christopher Nolan
So the long-awaited Christopher Nolan film Tenet has finally been released, and it is…okay. Nolan took five years to develop this script and produce the film, which feels incredibly derivative of his previous films, especially The Dark Knight and, even more obviously, Inception. That doesn’t mean Tenet is terrible from top to bottom. There are some very innovative ideas woven throughout the picture, and of course, Nolan is a master at practical effects-driven large scale set pieces, including computer effects conservatively and skillfully. What is not included in this mix are emotionally relatable characters with complex relationships.
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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Written & Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is not the first Studio Ghibli movie, but it is considered the first one. Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation studio, was founded in 1985 after Nausicaä was released. However, because it is the first film by Hayao Miyazaki to present the themes and types of stories present in his later work, Nausicaä has retroactively been made a part of the Ghibli canon. It fits perfectly, and for most fans, they don’t even notice the difference in dates.
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Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
Written by Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Directed by Dean Parisot
It has been 29 years since we last saw Bill & Ted and the world is a very different place or is it? Maybe the flaws we see now are simply amplified with time and were always there. We’re just living in a crisis point where you can’t deny that things are falling apart around us. We’re the grown-ups now, in our forties and fifties, and, if we have a conscious, feel a level of guilt about our inaction during those prime years of our lives. But the world hasn’t ended yet, and we still have time to do something. We just have to overcome our baggage to have a clear mind about what to do next. This is where the Wyld Stallyns find themselves in 2020.
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Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Written by Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Directed by Pete Hewitt
Right away, you can see the budget difference between Bogus Journey and its predecessor, Excellent Journey. The first film had an $8.5 million budget while the sequel was given $20 million. The production design and score are very apparent elements of this change. The film opens in the future, which consists of more than just one room like the original. We have high schoolers in San Dimas attending a course taught by Rufus. We have many more practical effects throughout the picture, matte paintings, and even some early digital effects. Instead of a time travel rehash, the story goes in some more spiritual and cosmic directions. The sense of humor is still the same, and our leads are so charismatic you enjoy watching them in action.
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Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Written by Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Directed by Stephen Herek
I vividly remember renting Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure when I was about 8 or 9. My mom was doing something that night related to the church, and so we got to rent a movie while staying home with our dad. I had seen the television commercials for Bill and Ted, but living in a family of four kids with only one working parent, we didn’t go out to the movie theater much. Video rental was how I saw most films, but they had to be PG-rated or lower, with some exceptions made for PG-13. I can remember loving this movie, not knowing who some of these historical figures were at the time, but enjoying the goofball duo that led the picture.
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Homecoming Season 2 (2020)
Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez
Written by Micah Bloomberg, Eli Horowitz, Zachary Wigon, Sarah Carbiener, Erica Rosbe, Casallina Kisakye, Evan Wright, and Patrick Macmanus
Choosing the perspective of a story is incredibly important. Deciding who will unroll the narrative for us affects how we perceive every character and each plot beat. Who ends up being seen as a hero or villain can subtly shift. The showrunners behind Homecoming decided to make the central character in their second season someone we had never met before. On top of that, she has amnesia and can’t even remember her name. By doing this, we are immediately sympathetic to her because we have no idea what is going on. By the end of the season, we know everything while she is still stumbling in the dark.
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Somewhere in Time (1980)
Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
I approached this film with moderate expectations but found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Somewhere in Time is a melodrama dripping with maudlin sentimentality. But it’s a well crafted one, so those excesses and silly bits can easily be ignored or enjoyed. The film is based on the novel Bid Time Return, also written by Richard Matheson. Between this film and my Twilight Zone series, I have enjoyed Matheson’s work this year. I’d only previously read I Am Legend, but I think I may need to do a deeper dive into his work. Somewhere in Time feels like a Matheson episode of Twilight Zone, which is stretched out a little longer and gives us a relatively decent tragic love story.
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A dystopia is generally defined as an imagined society where suffering is plentiful with people living in either a totalitarian or post-apocalyptic state. As you’ll see from my list, my preference leans on the tyrannical side of things. I tend to think societies won’t collapse in as dramatic a fashion as Mad Max, but rather people will reassemble a twisted skeleton of what is familiar & comfortable. To hold things together, people will accept the glue of authoritarian rule, whether through an individual despot or a faceless corporation. In most of these dark futures, there is not tangible governmental leadership; instead, it operates behind the scenes and is typically a merger of government & private corporations.
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Person or Persons Unknown (Season Three, Episode Twenty-Seven)
Original airdate: March 23rd, 1962
Written by Charles Beaumont
Directed by John Brahm
The Twilight Zone could really delve deeply into some intimately existential fears. In this episode, we meet David Gurney, a man who wakes up after late-night drinking. His wife reacts with horror, claiming she doesn’t recognize him and has no idea who he is. David thinks she’s playing a prank on him and leaves for work. But once he arrives at the bank, he finds his coworkers are in the same boat as his wife. They have never seen or heard of him before. Eventually, David ends up in a mental hospital where his doctor tries to convince him he never had this life; he seems to remember so vividly.
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Southland Tales – The Cannes Cut (2006)
Written & Directed by Richard Kelly
The promise of Richard Kelly was huge and seems to have dimmed in the last decade. In the wake of Donnie Darko, he was suddenly rocketed to the list of hot up-and-comers. I was definitely one of those people caught up in the Darko hype. I still hold that it’s his best work to date and that his subsequent work never felt quite as honed and clear. Southland Tales was the follow-up with a bigger budget and big names in the cast. It debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, and it was hailed as a disaster, bloated and too sprawling. Another cut was made for the theatrical release, and the reaction was much the same from audiences.
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