PRESENTING THE 2015 TRAGEDIES-THE 10 WORST MOVIES I SAW LAST YEAR

So You Saw The Shaynie’s-My Favourite Movies From My Favourite Categories. Now Here’s The 10 Worst I Saw From 2015

Welcome to the very first presentation of the Tragedies, the yin side to the Shaynie’s (my favourite movies from my favourite categories) yang. But unlike the Shaynie’s-which celebrate a year’s best movie achievements and entertainment-the Tragedies are the ten movies I considered either the most disappointing or just the absolute worst. It’s my version of the Raspberries, only without the nominations. Or the presentation ceremony. Or the budget.

I’d like to say enjoy, but there was precious little to enjoy about these cinematic train wrecks.

  1. Hot Pursuit: Lukewarm Chase would have been a more accurate description. This story of an anal retentive, by the book cop (Reese Witherspoon) trying to get the wife of a drug lord (Sofia Vergara) to Washington D.C. to testify was supposed to ride the coat tails of other female buddy movies like the Heat. But there was zero chemistry between the two leads, Vergara spent most of the time clicking her tongue and rolling her eyes and Witherspoon looked stupid trying to convince everyone she had a stick inserted in her rectum. Unfunny and boring, Hot Pursuit was a huge disappointment.

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  1. Poltergeist: File this one in the most unnecessary remake category. Usually, a remake will try to bring something new and fresh to the table, but too often Poltergeist simply xeroxed pivotal scenes from the classic yet somehow managed to rob them of their weight (when you stick closely to the original plot, there isn’t exactly a whole lot of surprises headed the audience’s way). On the few occasions where the remake wandered from the original’s path, it was underwhelming at best. And somehow, the whole thing seemed to take place on a smaller scale then Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, despite having special effects three decades more advanced.

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  1. Lazarus Effect: Lazarus Effect was, at best, a made for TV movie that should have aired on one of those crappy cable channels nobody wants but has to buy to get HBO Canada or the Food Channel. Starring Olivia Wilde and a bunch of actors culled from TV shows, Lazarus Effect looked like it had a production budget of twenty bucks and none of it was invested in script writing. The story was predictable, the characters wooden and unoriginal and the movie was just plain boring. Lazarus Effect was the first horror movie I suffered through in 2015, and it turned out it was just a taste of the disappointment the year’s “horror” movies had in store for me.

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  1. Terminator Genisys: You know how fondly you think of the first two Terminator movies? The ones directed by James Cameron and were actually, y’know, good? Yeah, following Terminator Genisys, they never happened. Gensisys wiped those two movies from Terminator continuity entirely, ignored the third and fourth installments altogether and left the entire franchise up in the air. Everyone and their brother had a time machine in this movie, everyone was jumping around the Space/Time continuum like they were Dr. Who and every model of Terminator made an appearance for absolutely zero reason. The acting was wooden and the characters unlikeable, an aging Schwarzenegger was reduced to comic relief for most of the film and the entire thing made absolutely no sense. I went into Genisys with low expectations and was still let down. I may not get the chance to be disappointed again though; Paramount suspended production on planned sequels following Genisys’s terrible North American box office performance. It looks like after three decades and five films, Arnie’s chrono-travelling cyborg has finally run out of time (sorry, couldn’t resist).

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  1. Crimson Peak: This was 2015’s last shot at providing me with my scary movie fix before I waved good-bye to the year. Directed by the legendary Guillermo del Toro and starring an impresive cast, the trailers looked brilliant. They were also Hollywood’s biggest bait–and-switch job of 2015. You know how the commercials sold Crimson Peak on TV? Like it was a supernatural story centered around a demonic house that consumed the souls of those trapped within it, a malevolent evil constantly hungry for new pain and fresh sacrifice? How it told the story of a young girl who became trapped in the horrific madness, forced to unravel the terrifying mystery behind this ancient house and the family that owns it before becoming yet another victim. Sounds awesome, right? Too bad the movie had absolutely nothing to do with any of that, but was instead a boring and predictable detective story that included a single ghost as a set piece, told a mystery that could be solved in five minutes and didn’t even try to throw any surprises the audience’s way. Jessica Chastain was awesome as the deadly, domineering matriarch, but everything else was boring stacked on top of more boring. Crimson Peak was the last horror movie I saw in 2015, while the aforementioned Lazarus Project was the first. They were perfect bookends of horrible with nothing but bad in between.

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  1. Chappie: Chappie was supposed to succeed where Transcendence failed in 2014. It was supposed to be an entertaining yet thought provoking examination of the human condition in the face of emerging technological superiority and the ethics behind creating independent intelligence. Supposed to be. It turned out to be a meandering tale about the human misuse of force (Seriously Hollywood, I can just turn on CNN or CPAC for the real thing-I don’t need to lay down eleven bucks and give up two hours of my life to know that people are inherently jackasses) that got bogged down beneath the weight of its own self importance and never got around to even asking the question that it claimed to be answering in the first place. When director Neil Blomkamp gave us the brilliant District 9 in 2009, he set himself up as the a film maker who would use sci-fi to illustrate the big issues and make us ask ourselves the tough questions. But following Elysium and now Chappie, his star hasn’t just faded; it’s fallen.

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  1. Sinister 2: I soooo wanted this to be good. After being burned by horror movies most of the year, I was hoping the sequel to 2012’s surprisingly decent Sinister would renew my faith in Hollywood’s fear factory. No such luck. The awkward, stumbling deputy who befriended Ethan Hawke’s doomed writer from the original returned, still without a name and still just as much of a putz as he was in the first one. Which would be fine for a supporting character but this is the hero who was supposed to go mano et mano against an ancient Pagan god that’s been preying upon and corrupting human beings for thousands of years. It was a lazy storytelling premise that undermined the entire movie. He didn’t have to be Rambo or even Fox Mulder, but at least give the man a name. Sinister 2 didn’t even add anything new to the franchise’s mythos, instead choosing to rehash details uncovered in the first one. The only thing that was scary about this flick was that someone with a big fancy title and big fat annual salary thought it would actually be scary.

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  1. Seventh Son: When a movie’s original release date is moved back to give it a less competitive slot on the calendar, it should be a sign of how bad that film probably is. When the same movie is only offered in 3-D to wring a few extra dollars from every ticket sale, you know the studio has already thrown in the towel. A fantasy movie that looked like it might have had a hint of potential, Seventh Son fell flat on its face from the opening credits. The portions of the plot that weren’t recycled from previous fantasy movies about witch hunters were predictable and boring as the movie stumbled from one pointless CGI scene to the next. If you didn’t guess how this movie was going to end ten minutes after the opening credits it’s probably because you fell asleep. And judging by their performances, the veterans of the cast wished they were asleep too. Former Oscar darlings Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore looked like they were sleepwalking through a miserable work-week, just trying to make it until they could pick up their paycheques at the end.

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  1. Pixels: Let’s hope movie studios learned their lesson from this failed exercise in 80’s nostalgia and aren’t giving Adam Sandler anymore movie money. This action/comedy was designed to appeal strictly to fans of video games designed before 1982, which excluded the most popular games of the video game revolution. After Pac-Man and Space Invader you had, what, Frogger? While this may have appealed to movie goers in their fifties, anyone not familiar with long forgotten names like Atari and Coleco had no way to relate to this film’s entire raison d’etre (a fact reflected by Pixel’s dismal box office). Most of the leads looked bored (especially Sandler), and while Josh Gatt’s portrayal of a stereotypical gaming geek/conspiracy nut was initially amusing, it wore thin well before the movie’s halfway point. Pixels was essentially a mildly amusing twenty minute walk down pop culture memory lane wrapped in an hour and half of pointless cliché and suck.

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  1. Fantastic Four: When a director tweets that fans shouldn’t blame him for the hot mess of movie that bears his name the day before said movie is scheduled to be released, that’s a really bad sign. When that movie is a summer blockbuster that’s been getting hyped since the Superbowl, you know it’s catastrophic.

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The problems between director Josh Trank and Fox were well documented and the fallout from their divorce (which saw Trank thrown off the project before the movie was even completed) cost him his gig directing this December’s Star Wars: Rogue One. But even if Trank completed his “vision,” it probably would have been just as bad since they messed everything up across the board. Deliberately. They decided to take the Fantastic Four, who’ve spent 75 years being bright and shiny beacons of scientific exploration and knowledge, a family of super heroes living on the frontier of innovation and progress, and make it a gritty Batman film full of brooding, darkness and body horror. Not only did they turn Dr. Doom, one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, into an angry science student with an axe to grind, but they also made the final confrontation between the heroes and villain into the lamest, most anti-climactic fight scene ever. This movie failed on every level because it chose to. Making the conscious choice to be such a colossal failure makes Fantastic Four the granddaddy of 2015’s movie Tragedies.

Shayne Kempton

PRESENTING THE FIRST ANNUAL SHAYNIES: MY FAVOURITE MOVIES FROM 2015 IN MY FAVOURITE CATEGORIES

Every year when the Oscars roll around, I’m often asked what my favourite movie of the year was. It’s a question that drives me up the wall, partly because the person asking it will expect me to defend my choice if and when it conflicts with theirs, but mostly because individual taste is so wildly subjective. It’s why I really don’t care which movie Academy judges decide is a particular year’s best; movie preferences are so varied and cover such a wide range that trying to single out one movie from the dozens of genres and hundreds of releases each year and raising it above all the others is an exercise in absurdity.

But there are some movies that do deserve recognition, so with that in mind, welcome to the premiere presentation of the Shaynies- my favourite movies in my favourite categories. Enjoy.

Favourite Action Movie: Going in, I wasn’t prepared to enjoy this flick as much as I did, but somehow Tom Cruise and company manage to make each entry in the Mission Impossible franchise reasonably fresh, and they did it again with Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation. MI5’s brain trust seriously lucked out with Rebecca Ferguson, who established herself as a stylish, smart and sexy action heroine (there were plenty of ladies commandeering the silver screen last year action wise, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t also give a shout out to Charlize Theron for her turn in Mad Max: Fury Road, Evangeline Lily for Ant-Man and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and I’m not gonna lie, I came out of the theatre with a bit of a crush on Miss Ferguson. She put a guy in a chokehold, an arm bar and a figure four leg lock all at the same time. I didn’t even know that was physically possible. MI5 had enough other things going for it as well, including a story that didn’t insult the audience’s intelligence (uncharacteristic of action films) and it will be interesting to see if the eventual MI6 can continue to keep this franchise fresh.

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Favourite Animated Movie: 2015 was a veritable smorgasbord for animated fare. There was a Peanuts movie, a sequel to Hotel Transylvania, a Minions stand alone movie and for the first time ever, a pair of Pixar releases. People who know me would probably think I’d go with Minions-and it was close- but in the end I have to give the nod to DreamWorks’ Home. Following the antics of an alien misfit and a young girl searching for her mother after the Earth has been hijacked by said aliens; this one tickled the funny bone plenty of times and even tugged on a few heartstrings. Casting Jim Parsons as the socially awkward alien was an inspired choice and the film playfully deals with heavy concepts like loyalty, friendship, family and sacrifice. Many of the other animated films were great, but Home took the cake this year.

Favourite Comedy: After disappointing fans with 2014’s Tammy, Melissa McCarthy returned with a vengeance with Spy, mixing her signature self depreciating humour with a newfound physicality as she played a CIA analyst thrown into the field to thwart an international criminal organization after her partner’s apparent murder. McCarthy enjoyed awesome chemistry with a supporting cast that seemed tailor made for her and director Paul Feig did a great job of peppering quick, sharp jokes in between action sequences. Spy didn’t exactly blow the doors off the box office but proved to have strong enough legs to turn a nice profit and outperform Arnold Schwarzenegger and Adam Sandler at North American theatres. Spy (and the upcoming comedy Boss) should wet moviegoers’ appetite for this summer’s McCarthy lead Ghostbuster reboot.

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Favourite Comic Book Movie: There wasn’t a whole lot of choice in this category this year (unlike 2016, which looks like it will be throwing a comic book-themed blockbuster out every month or so), and while I enjoyed Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron wins the prize in this category this year. Make no mistake, the story had plenty of flaws and it wasn’t as good as it’s 2012 predecessor, but the special effects and action took place on such an epic scale that it was basically able to out-shout what little competition it had. Director Joss Whedon used his last directing duty for Marvel to begin adding some new faces to the Avengers roster as the Big 3 get ready to retire their characters and while AoU’s producers didn’t use Avenger arch-nemesis Ultron to his full villainous potential, James Spader’s voice alone was enough to chew up plenty of spandex clad scenery. Now Disney, can we talk about that Black Widow solo movie everyone wants?

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Favourite Drama: If you blinked at all during the November rush of Oscar bait releases, you may have missed Spotlight, my favourite dramatic movie from 2015. Based on the true story of a group of investigative journalists in Boston who revealed how large the child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church truly was, how long it had been going on and how massive the cover up protecting it was, Spotlight reminded us of how important genuine media could (and should) be and what role it serves in democratic societies. It also revealed how complicit other political institutions were in the conspiracy, a poignant fact considering how much we’re currently witnessing our modern media cozying up to current political forces. And if you didn’t feel like punching a priest in the face before you saw this movie, you definitely will afterwards.

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Favourite Horror Movie: None Nada. Zilch. I didn’t see a single horror movie that inspired any genuine emotion save for disappointment and indifference. To say 2015 was a disappointing year for cinematic macabre is an understatement. Every time I saw something that looked mildly interesting or promising, it fell flatter then Bill Cosby’s legal defense. In fact, several of the so-called horror movies I suffered through in ‘15 found their way onto my most disappointing list. And after a number of early misfires, 2016 is looking just as dismal.

Favourite Popcorn Movie: Yes, I called out this movie’s warts in my review, and it wasn’t the perfection we all hoped it would be, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens was easily the best popcorn movie I saw all year. Despite its flaws, watching SW was a genuinely good time and there wasn’t a moment during the film’s two plus hour running time that I didn’t feel like I was twelve years old again. It was like climbing in a time machine for a few hours and your adult concerns and worries were reduced to a stubborn back seat driver. Was it worth the hype? Probably not, but it was worth the price of admission, no matter how many times you saw it.

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Favourite Science Fiction Movie: It’s weird giving the nod in this category to The Martian, since even director Ridley Scott refused to categorize it as science fiction because of all the actual science in it. But since it dealt with a level of scientific sophistication a few years beyond Humankind’s current technological reach, I think it’s suitable. Many fans and pundits were initially worried that The Martian’s length and the amount of pure science it included might scare off casual movie goers, but this film ruled the box office for the entire month of October. Up for six Oscars (including Best Picture), the biggest reflection of The Martian’s success wasn’t it’s 630 million dollar international gross, but that fans of Andy Weir’s bestselling book loved the movie as well. And how often does that happen?

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Guilty Pleasure: Smart and stylish and a complete box office bomb, The Man From U.N.C.L.E had so much potential and was one of those movies that should have enjoyed success but failed to find an audience for whatever reason. Based on the 60’s TV show, U.N.C.L.E was a nostalgic tale of espionage, intrigue and the reluctant fight for the common good set in Cold War Europe and it smartly embraced a number of classic spy movie tropes, particularly with suave ladies man Napoleon Solo (played convincingly by Henry Cavil sans the super tights). Maybe it was because there wasn’t a gunfight or explosion or Kung-Fu battle royal every five minutes that U.N.C.L.E. couldn’t find success during the summer movie bonanza, but either way, it’s a shame that we won’t get to see these characters (and the suspicious, less then trusting partnership they forged) again in the sequel Warner Bros. obviously had planned.

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Most Surprising Movie: I didn’t know what to think of Krampus going in (and truth be told, I still don’t), but while I was expecting to be turned off by this Christmas horror/comedy with a cast comprised of TV level celebrities, I kind of enjoyed myself. Although this tale of a family trying to fend off the ancient demon of Anti-Christmas probably isn’t going to make anyone’s annual list of must see Christmas fare (although it may turn out to be the perfect Black Friday movie), it did leave an impression. Probably destined to be a cult favourite, this flick carved out a little spot in my movie going heart. Shut up.

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As an aside, the little seen Victor Frankenstein gets an honourable mention in this category, if for nothing other then James McAvoy’s performance as the tortured, somewhat narcisstic but highly obsessed Dr. Frankenstein.

Favourite Scene: You know how angry you get every time you see the Westboro Baptist Church on TV? How much their “God Hates Fags” signs and their “protests” at funerals pisses you off? If you’re any kind of decent, warm-blooded human being, it makes you want to participate in mass murder with the adult members of Westboro on the receiving end of your biblical wrath. Well, you can live out that fantasy in the infamous church scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service. When Superspy Galahad (Colin Firth) finds himself in a Kentucky hate-church that’s obviously inspired by the real life Westboro Baptist Church, he first shocks one of the church’s flock into horrified silence when he offends each and every one of her numerous bigotries before, while under the influence of the villain’s homicide inducing doomsday device, slaughters the entire congregation in spectacular fashion. Watch the video beneath if you need any convincing. And keep a napkin close; you might get some blood on you.

Shayne Kempton

OK DINOSAUR

DISNEY/PIXAR’S GOOD DINOSAUR ISN’T TERRIBLE, BUT IT FAILS TO LIVE UP TO PIXAR’S USUALLY LOFTY STANDARDS

Director: Peter Sohn

Starring: Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Anna Paquin and Sam Elliot

Studio: Disney/Pixar

Rated: G

Running Time: 1 Hr, 40 Mins

Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur took a long time to get to the big screen. Originally slated for release in 2013, it was pushed back several times, with Pixar going back to the drawing board entirely at least once, replacing the director mid-production and Frances McDormand was the only member of the original cast to survive the creative purge. The finished product isn’t horrible but falls well short of Pixar’s usual standards and it might have been interesting to see what Pixar had up its sleeve before scrapping the original plans.

Millions of years after a massive asteroid barely missed Earth, a pair of Sauropods welcome three new additions to their family. Among them is Arlo, the smallest of the children who is skittish and timid from birth. The dinosaur family live on a farm growing corn and raising chickens (who more than occasionally bully the young Arlo) and have to contend with regular visits from a mysterious thief who raids their food stores. Arlo’s constant fear keeps him from being as valuable to the farm as his siblings and his confidence wanes further as he witnesses their personal achievements grow.

When tragedy robs Arlo of his beloved father, the family find themselves struggling to get by and further events soon see Arlo stranded in the wilderness, terrified and desperate to get home. His only ally is the “critter” responsible for stealing their food and leading him and his father on a fatal goose chase. The two must co-operate in order to survive an unforgiving wilderness and get Arlo home. And there is no shortage of danger confronting the two, from more deadly weather to other, carnivorous dinosaurs.

There are moments in The Good Dinosaur where Pixar does what it does best; tug at your heartstrings. There are also a few moments of genuine comedy, particularly when the two dine on some berries that have some interesting psychological side effects. The animators do an excellent job of building a convincing, frontier landscape (there’s a definite old west feel to Dinosaur, whether it be the family roughing it alone on the plains to the T-Rex cattle herders to the wide open, Grand Canyon-like vistas) as well as granting their non-human characters genuine human emotions.

But unlike previous Pixar efforts, Dinosaur seems more content to settle for mediocrity rather than explore it’s own potential. The entire movie feels like its satisfied to merely scratch the surface of what it could do.

In the Cars movies, Pixar did a brilliant job of building an entire world around talking automobiles. They created a fantastic alternate timeline in The Incredibles where super heroes not only existed but were once the world’s greatest celebrities. In the Monsters movies they imagined an entire world populated by monsters that were afraid of the humans who lived in the world right next door. Pixar has always excelled at building the worlds it creates for its characters and exploring those fictional places to get a better handle on the protagonists. But in Dinosaur we only get see a little, isolated corner of a world that is supposed to exist millions of years after the catastrophe that drove the dinosaurs into extinction happened. There are only a dozen speaking characters throughout the entire film and the entire movie feels limited.

The voice casting also lacks the same gravitas Pixar is usually known for. Nothing against the remaining cast but they just seem to have the same presence as a Toy Story or even last summer’s blockbuster Inside Out. While Spot (the little Neanderthal) can communicate through facial expressions, he pales in comparison to how well Wall-E was able to emote with a pair of eyes and some beeps. And unlike previous Pixar movies, Dinosaur doesn’t really have a primary villain. There are a few bad guys that wander through here and there, but the primary adversary in Dinosaur seems to be nature herself. It just isn’t as satisfying seeing a character overcome a raging river or a thunderstorm as it is watching them battle a cursed demon bear or outwit a pack of malevolent toys.

The Good Dinosaur isn’t a bad family flick (though it does have a few uncharacteristically startling moments), but like it’s main character, it seems afraid of its own potential and is unwilling to try and be something more.

Shayne Kempton

GAME OF CHOICES

GAME OF THRONES FANS CAN ACTUALLY BENEFIT FROM GEORGE R. R. MARTIN’S FAILURE TO GET THE NEXT BOOK OUT BEFORE SEASON SIX OF THE HIT SHOW

(Originally Posted on Hautnews.com January 2016)

Over the weekend, George R. R. Martin took to the Internet to admit defeat. The author of the popular A Song of Fire and Ice novels will not have the sixth volume of the fantasy saga, titled Winds of Winter, ready before HBO debuts the sixth season of the televised adaptation. Martin and his American publisher (Bantam) had hoped to release the book by late March but the author admitted that for various reasons he had missed several deadlines necessary to edit the manuscript and rush Winter to store shelves. Martin offered no possible date on when the sixth volume will be complete while the sixth season of Game of Thrones debuts on HBO April 17th.

While fans are naturally disappointed (and maybe feeling a little taken for granted), this could very well be a good thing, giving them the kind of choice other fans can only dream of.

Martin’s progress on the series has always been laboriously slow. The first book, A Game of Thrones (where the show finds its name) was released in 1996; in the two decades since, Martin has added just four more books to the series, albeit enormous ones (the fourth and fifth volumes were initially one manuscript that he split up and revised). The last title to grace store shelves, A Dance of Dragons, was published in 2011, six years after A Feast For Crows. Speed has never been one of Martin’s strong suits, especially considering his other obligations (including his role as producer and social media cheerleader for the show).

Thrones producers had already admitted that they were writing scripts using Martin’s notes as a guideline. That isn’t unusual given the liberties the show has increasingly taken as it has progressed, diverging from the original source material while still respecting the spirit of the story (as evidenced by several controversial scenes from last season). There are entire message boards devoted to dissecting the differences between the two, often passing judgment on which version was better. It isn’t inconceivable that when the show concludes, most likely in 2017, its finish could be dramatically different then Martin’s planned conclusion for the books.

So take heart book fans, while it may be painful realizing you have to wait longer for Winds of Winter, the last thing you want is for any portion of this epic to be rushed, especially the final two volumes. Given how long it has taken Martin to publish five books so far, could you imagine the disappointment in the finished product if he sped through simply for the sake of meeting a deadline? In the likely event that it will take him several years to conclude his ubertale of Westeros, you can savour the inevitable differences in how he wraps everything up and how Thrones’ show runners decide to. You’ll actually have two different versions of the same story to compare and enjoy. And it isn’t as though the seventh and final tome in Martin’s epic will see the light of day for at least another five years, so even if he managed to get book six out by St. Patrick’s Day, there was no way book seven was going to be published before season seven hit cable waves in April of 2017. Falling behind was inevitable and fans are better off seeing it happen sooner rather then later.

Look at this for what it is, a rare chance to play “Which Ending Do I Like Better?” Because when Martin concludes his epic, you’ll have the opportunity to choose which ending you prefer-books or show. Because as we all know, the road to TV hell is paved with the endings of beloved and long running shows that fell well short of the expectations of loyal and devoted fan bases. Just ask fans of and a hundred others how much they’d like an option B to wrap those stories up.

Shayne Kempton

DEAD ON ARRIVAL?

FOUR REASONS WHY DEADPOOL MAY NOT BE THE BLOCKBUSTER WE ALL HOPE IT WILL BE

(Originally posted on Hautnews.com January 2016)

When 20th Century Fox deputed the trailer for the long awaited Deadpool movie last summer, legions of fan boys circled February 12 on their calendars. Many heralded it as the next big comic book movie blockbuster that would usurp the likes of The Avengers and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. It was going to launch a billion dollar franchise and conquer an unsuspecting world. It was going to be the Donald Trump of movies! OK, so that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but to say that it generated a lot of excitement in fan boy circles is the cinematic understatement of the year. And when the Red Band trailer hit the Internet at Christmas, it made almost as much noise (the Internet pretty much belonged to Star Wars at that point). But there are four reasons for genuine concern about both the movie and the character’s silver screen prospects.

The Rating: The Deadpool movie is the result of years of lobbying, badgering, pleading and begging by the fan boy community, and during all the petitions and online dialogues, one of the two things everyone demanded was that the live action version of the Merc with a Mouth was rated R. Everyone wanted to see lots of blood, carnage and unholy violence and absolutely no filter installed to censor Deadpool’s signature manic profanity. Fans wanted headshots, decapitations and F-bombs! And lots of them! Except . . .

An R rating excludes a huge portion of the potential audience-namely teenagers. Sure, you’ll have plenty prepubescent movie goers sneaking in, but for every one who does manage to ninja their way past an uninterested usher, you’ll have one or two who’ll just shrug and either pirate it or wait for it to hit the home and streaming markets. Of the billions grossed by Avengers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and previous X films, how much of it do you think was the result of teenagers seeing it over and over, unencumbered by any legal obstacles? Now ask yourself how much an R rating could have cost those franchises.

The Release Date: Normally, February is the No Man’s Land of the movie calendar. It’s the month studios move films to after deciding they’d rather see them turn a sliver of a profit instead of getting annihilated during the summer blockbuster smorgasbord (Hollywood’s alternative to actually making good movies all year round). MGM decided against releasing the Robocop remake in the summer of 2013, instead moving it to February of 2014. Warner Bros. did the same thing with Jupiter Ascending, moving it from the summer of 2014 to last February, and both movies were still box office disappointments. The list goes on but you get the idea. Normally a February release alone would be cause for concern, except February of 2016 is looking particularly strong.

If Deadpool is going to be successful it will need to attract plenty of mainstream box office attention. Comic book fans may be worth a few million here and there but they can’t sustain a blockbuster on their own. And ‘Pool is going to face some stiff competition. The Cohen Brothers comedy Hail Caesar! (starring the likes of George Clooney, Scarlett Johnassen, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Josh Brolin) and the horror/comedy Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (starring genre fan faves Matt Smith and Lena Headey) will both be released February 5th, a week before Deadpool. Deadpool itself will be hitting theatres on Valentine’s Day weekend and will not only be facing the romance Learning How To Be Single, but will also be trying to take dollars away from Zoolander 2. Mainstream audiences have been waiting for the second movie starring Ben Stiller’s clueless supermodel just as long as the smaller (and less profitable) comic book audience has been waiting for Deadpool. And if the Poolster somehow navigates that crowded movie shuffle, he’s going to wind up staring down the Christian movie audience a few weeks later when Revival is released February 26th.

The Lead: Remember when we said previously that there were two things fandom demanded during their long years of waiting for Deadpool to hit the big screen? Other then the R rating, fans would only be satisfied as long as it was Ryan Reynolds bringing everyone’s favourite mutant assassin to life. In truth, Reynolds was literally born to play this role, and fans have known it since he appeared as Deadpool in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But unfortunately, only comic book fans know it.

Reynolds’ recent box office track record has been beyond bad. His brand hasn’t recovered from the enormous bomb that was Green Lantern in 2011. All those movie-bombs may not have been his fault, but mainstream audiences aren’t that understanding. As far as the all-important casual fan goes, Reynolds is more likely to repel dollars then attract them. And the fact that Rob Liefield, a former superstar comic book artist now reviled by a large portion of comic fandom, is involved won’t help either.

The Studio: People point to how Fox injected new life into an X-Men movie franchise that had grown stale, and they’re absolutely right. But that means Fox had to inject new life into a movie franchise they allowed to grow stale. And we can also point out the solo Wolverine movies, films that ranged from bad to mediocre. And let’s not forget, Fox was responsible for this summer’s Fantastic Four debacle, a failure of a reboot if there ever was one. In fact, the entire summer of 2015 was a write off for Fox, and when a studio blows the time of year responsible for a sizeable chunk of its revenue, that can’t bode well for future projects under its banner.

There’s no real reason for fans to panic, the movie could very well be a runaway success. But these four reasons should be enough for everyone to temper their enthusiasm with just a little more optimistic caution.

Shayne Kempton

THE NHL’S 2015 CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

TEN THINGS GMS, PLAYERS AND FANS FROM THE NHL SHOULD BE WISHING FOR THIS CHRISTMAS

(Originally posted on Hautnews.com on December 24th, 2015)

So here we are on Christmas Eve, and while everyone’s asked jolly old St. Nick for something this year, here are ten suggestions that should appear under some NHL Christmas trees tomorrow morning. If you’re reading this Santa, you might want to take a few of these to heart and hopefully some enterprising GMs and hockey execs will leave out some extra cookies and milk for you.

  1. A hobby for the idiots from Las Vegas who came after me on Twitter. Earlier this year I wrote a story on why the NHL shouldn’t put a franchise in Sin City (you’ll notice the absence of any other major sports league teams as well) and before I knew it I found myself in the crosshairs of some angry Las Vegas fans on Twitter, including the guy who ran the bid’s Twitter account. They apparently had nothing better to do with their time on a summer Saturday evening, so if you could Santa, maybe leave a hobby or two in their stocking. Possibly crochet or Sudoku. Or maybe Crazy 8s because I hear playing cards is a big thing in Vegas. And speaking of Twitter . . .
  1. Some exploding coal for some toxic Chicago Blackhawks fans. When Chicago Blackhawks superstar (and renowned party animal) Patrick Kane was being investigated for allegations of rape during the summer, some Blackhawk fans not only decided that he was innocent, but that anyone in the media who didn’t immediately begin singing songs of his innocence deserved threats. CBSChicago.com reporter (and Sports 670 update anchor) Julie DiCaro actually had to stay home from work after getting threatening Tweets from some Blackhawk fans. Common sense and reason doesn’t enter into the equation with animals like this Big Red, so maybe some hand grenades disguised like coal could get the job done.
  1. Some luck for my fantasy hockey team. I don’t know what it is Santa, but this year my players have been dropping like flies. Not minor injuries mind you, but the kind that sidelines players for weeks and even months at a time. Even the players I’ve drafted to replace my injured superstars have been getting themselves injured. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if some of their legs started falling off. I don’t know how you’d wrap it Big Man, but how about some fantasy health?
  1. A break for Buffalo Sabre fans. Being a Sabre fan these past few years has been a pretty tall order. The team finished dead last in both 2014 and 2015 but they were denied the first overall pick both years (losing out on Connor McDavid last June was especially painful given how Sabre management did everything in its power to finish last). But despite all that, this year was supposed to offer hope for beleaguered Sabres fans. Not a playoff spot mind you, but enough tangible improvement to warrant patient loyalty. Instead, Sabres fans have been treated to a buffet of injury and misfortune. Robin Lehtner, who was supposed to be their goaltender moving forward, has yet to start a game because of injury and Evander Kane, who was supposed to light it up riding shotgun for generational talent Jack Eichel, missed a month with a leg injury (I know, he was on my fantasy team). And speaking of Eichel, while 2015’s second overall pick has been posting pretty good numbers, he isn’t yet in the Calder Trophy conversation, another potential sore point for long suffering Sabres fans.
  1. A do-over for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus lost over 500 man games to injury last season (no other team came close) and even though their non-stop parade of injuries cost them a playoff berth, when the team was healthy it looked mighty fine, ending the season by winning thirteen of its final sixteen games. Adding rising young power forward Brandon Saad over the summer was the icing on the cake and a playoff berth seemed a foregone conclusion for a lot of pundits. No one knows exactly what happened in Ohio but wow did this team fall of the rails at light speed. Mired at the bottom of the standings again with a playoff spot looking like an impossible long shot, Columbus is now stuck with the walking talking temper tantrum known as John Tortorella as it’s coach and the team seems on the verge of dealing away superstar and franchise player Ryan Johansen (one of only two Blue Jackets not to miss any time to injury last season). It’s pretty safe to say Big Red that this was hardly how the Blue Jackets or their fans expected this season to go.
  1. Last year Santa I asked you for some Divine Intervention to save my Edmonton Oilers from themselves. Primarily from horrible management and deliberately blind ownership. Boy did you come through. When we won the right to draft Connor McDavid last April, it set off a chain of events that all fell into place like dominoes from Heaven. Within forty-eight hours our President and General Manager (both the worst in the League) had been demoted and our head coaching position vacated. Over the next few months the proven and competent leadership that replaced them systematically filled the open positions with established names and then went about transforming the roster. But now Santa, I need to ask another monumental favour for my team.

Do you think you could lift the curse that seems to be hanging over this franchise? We     have yet to see what this squad can do since the roster has never been healthy. Jordan Eberle blew his shoulder in training camp, missing the first month of the season. Justin Schultz injured his back just before Halloween, sidelining him a month. The worst has got to be Connor McDavid, the saviour and teenage phenom who was just beginning to bust out after a slow start and dominate games the way few eighteen year olds before him had, when a pair of no talent Philadelphia pylons on skates dragged him into the boards, breaking his left collarbone and putting him on the shelf for several months. And now Oscar Klefbom, arguably our top blue liner, is out an undetermined amount of time after a broken finger somehow became a staff infection in his leg. Perhaps nothing sums up how snake bitten this season has been as much as Nail Yakupov. Finally having a good year (playing alongside McDavid), the embattled Yak has been out for the past few weeks (and will be out a few more) since being dragged down by a falling linesman. Yak sprained his ankle in the fall and will miss approximately a month with the biggest freak injury anyone has ever heard of. But don’t worry Santa, the ref was OK.

  1. A milk carton for the Pittsburgh Penguins offence and the entire Anaheim Ducks organization, since both seem to be missing. When the Penguins stunned the hockey world by acquiring sniper Phil Kessel from the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs last July, adding him to the likes of Sydney Crosby, Evengi Malkin and Kris Letang, everyone thought Pittsburgh was going to be a regular feature on the nightly highlight reels. No one was prepared to hand the Pens the Cup mind you (much was made of the team’s remaining holes on the blue line and questions in net), but the question everyone was asking was how many goals would Pittsburgh score? Now the question going into every game is are the Pittsburgh Penguins going to score at all? Sydney Crosby has spent months mired in a scoring slump and Kessel has yet to light anything resembling a fire under the Pens offence. They’ve been downright mediocre and are miles from being the offensive juggernaut just about every one in the world predicted them to be last September.

Anaheim meanwhile is easily the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season. After falling just short of making the Stanley Cup finals last June, no other team was as aggressive as the Ducks in addressing roster needs while deftly managing the salary cap. The Ducks beefed up at every position and were everyone’s favourite to win the Cup at the beginning of the season. The team’s strength combined with their home in the NHL’s weakest division seemed a perfect recipe for regular season dominance and eventual Stanley Cup glory. But now the Ducks are in very real danger of missing the playoffs altogether, their top players have been called out repeatedly in the media and it’s considered only a matter of time before head coach Bruce Boudreau is fired. How bad has it been Santa? The Ducks won just one game in the entire month of October and fared little better in November. Even if Anaheim begins tearing it up in the New Year, they may not be able to make up the ground they lost in the first few months of the season, and could very well find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time.

  1. A little more patience from my fellow Oilers fans. If you could Big Man, could you slip a little more resolve into Oilers fans stockings? We’ve been a battered bunch this past decade, saddled with the worst President, the worst GMs and the worst coaches for years, all overseen by an owner whose negligence bordered on criminal. But with Connor McDavid now on the scene and all the necessary front office changes his arrival inspired, we finally had hope-sweet, precious hope. But that hope was tested when we lost our first four games and has been bruised further by a few prolonged losing streaks that have kept us from reaching a .500 record. But if you squint your eyes and turn your head just enough, things are looking up.

The Oilers may have lost a lot of games this season, but they’ve been competitive in just about all of them, something they haven’t been able to say in years. A few more bounces go their way and a few less calls against them and this team could easily be a game or two over the .500 mark right now. They’ve actually come back to win some games, another trait they haven’t displayed since time out of mind, and they’ve managed to steal a few points here and there with some outstanding goaltending (if you would have told an Oilers fan that as recently as last year they would have slapped you in the face with a brick and told you to stop your lies). McDavid’s injury was a big blow, but it allowed the team to recall Leon Draisaitl, who has blown the doors off the NHL and Taylor Hall, who’s spent most of the season among the NHL’s top scorers, is looking every bit like the team’s future captain, both on and off the ice. And when McDavid returns sometime in January, GM Peter Chiarelli will have a surplus of assets he can trade to address other needs.

There’s still a long way to go Santa, but could you just make sure my fellow members of the Copper and Blue Nation stick around just a little longer for the good times? No one should have anticipated a playoff spot this season anyway (though a recent winning streak has put us back in that conversation, a place we haven’t been in December for years), but there would be a certain poetic symbolism if we returned to the post season dance next season, the first in our shiny new home.

  1. A healing factor for Connor McDavid. You know Santa, like the one Wolverine has. And maybe some of those unbreakable Adamantium bones as well. Because if McDavid’s injury in November at the hands of much less talented, slow of foot blue liners, it’s that the young heir apparent has a target on his back. McDavid’s blinding speed coupled with his cat like agility and his sublime puck handling skills proved impossible for most NHL D-men to defend against, so the thug like antics displayed by Flyers blue liners Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Manning, where they basically gang-tackled him into the boards, are likely going to become more common. And more accepted (the NHL has never been eager to protect its stars).

But there’s one other reason Connor’s going to need an ability to heal fast Big Red, and that’s because of Hockey Trolls. McDavid’s good. Really good. He’s been lauded by everyone from Steven Stamkos to Wayne Gretzky (who described him as the best player to come along in the last thirty years) and his skill set is pure offense (though he’s proven he can use his offensive instincts to protect a lead as well), meaning that there’s a sizeable portion of “traditional” hockey fans who will never respect him. There was no shortage of them on social media before the season began begging for him to fail and they tripped over themselves with glee when he went down with his injury. The Great One had his fair share of detractors back in the day, fans who didn’t consider him a real player because he didn’t fight, but Gretz didn’t have to contend with Twitter and Reddit. So if it isn’t too much trouble Santa, could you wrap up a nice healing X-gene and put it under Connor’s tree?

  1. A big pat on the back to P.K. Subban. Already heavily involved in charity work (P.K. and his family are the faces of Hyundai Hockey Helpers, a non profit organization that assists parents struggling with cost of enrolling their kids in North America’s most expensive sport), the popular (and often controversial) Montreal Canadiens defenseman pledged ten million dollars over the next seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. It is by far the biggest single donation a member of the venerated Habs franchise has ever donated to charity. Subban’s contributions on the ice never go unnoticed by his teammates or Habs fans (or their opponents, for that matter), and now, with a wing of the hospital bearing his name, his presence and generosity to the community won’t either.

          An honourable shout out to Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price in this category as well. When the St. Louis Blues traded the popular Oshie to Washington last off-season, five-year-old Libby Lu was so distraught at his departure that she locked herself in a closet crying, refusing to come out. Well, T.J. reached out to little Libby twice, first calling her on a Sportscenter talk show and then by mailing her a crate full of Washington Capitals swag, all of it autographed, ensuring that Libby would not only be a T.J. Oshie fan her entire life, but also a hockey one as well. Meanwhile Carey Price has been heavily involved in a number of youth programs, everything from donating equipment to Aboriginal communities to raffling off his game masks. Price’s community work won him the Jean Beliveau award last October, awarded by the legendary Beliveau’s wife. Good job, gentlemen, good job.

Shayne Kempton

libby-lu-caps-jersey

NEW FORCE RISING

I ENJOYED IT BUT I WISH IT HAD BEEN MORE ORIGINAL

(Originally posted on Hautnews.com on December 17th, 2015)

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Domnhall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels and Mark Hamill

Studio: Disney/Lucasfilms

Rated: PG

Running Time: 2 Hrs, 15 Mins

Ever since Return of the Jedi ended it’s theatrical run in 1983, Star Wars fans have been desperate to return to the galaxy that was far, far away in a time long ago. There was no shortage of novels, comic books, video games and toys but it just wasn’t the same. George Lucas gave the world hope when he unleashed the infamously bad Prequels in 1999 but quickly stole it back again when we wiped the nostalgia from our eyes and saw those movies for the hideous dreck they were. But cautious hope sprang eternal again when Disney bought the Star Wars franchise from Lucas in 2012, setting off a wave of growing hysteria that has lead to this weekend’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Watching the new Star Wars movie is like slipping into a warm comfortable sweater; it goes out of its way to duplicate the winning formula of the original Star Wars (which we all loved) but it would have been nicer to see it stretch it’s own legs a little more.

Years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker has vanished and the fanatical, fascist First Order has risen from the ruins of the Empire (the First Order consider free will and democracy chaos). A resistance movement supported by the galactic Republic opposes the expansion of the Order while General Leia (Carrie Fisher) searches desperately for her lost brother, believing he is the key to returning peace to a once again war torn galaxy (the Order, lead by its mysterious Supreme Leader, is also searching for Skywalker so it can prevent the rise of any new Jedi Knights to oppose them). On the planet Jakku, Leia’s agent and legendary Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is captured during his investigation, setting off a chain of events that results in the gathering of unlikely heroes thrust into unimaginable battles facing impossible odds with the fates of entire worlds hanging in the balance.

Strong willed and tough as nails scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) soon finds herself in the middle of a battle beyond her imagination (or comprehension) while a Storm trooper who will come to be named Finn (Jon Boyega) rediscovers his humanity when he decides first to flee the Order and then when he decides to stop running and take a stand (Storm troopers are no longer clones, but are children taken from their parents at young ages and psychologically programmed by the Order to be perfectly obedient and ruthless soldiers). Along the way legends Leia Organa, Han Solo and Chewbacca (Fisher, Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew respectively) all return, two generations of heroes fighting (sometimes reluctantly) alongside one another. Even C3-P0 (Anthony Daniels) makes an appearance. It’s a buffet of nostalgia with a few new items on the menu.

Above all else, Awakens is a cinematic time machine. From the moment the storytelling scrawl begins climbing up the screen, you’re eight years old again, watching an epic battle of good versus evil unfold on the silver screen. The inclusion of original characters is a brilliant touch, both for fans of the original movies but also to pass the torch to a new generation. Nowhere is this decision (and its success) reflected more then the adoption of BB-8 as the movie’s new mascot, replacing the classic R2-D2. And there is no shortage of Easter eggs thrown in to pay respect to the original movies (yet thankfully ignoring the Prequels-which should never be discussed ever again).

Director J.J. Abrams not only embraces the themes of the original Star Wars, but heavily recycles its plot as well. Awakens is pretty formulaic and mirrors A New Hope almost exactly in its narrative. Pivotal characters are thrown together through seeming chance, are soon immersed in a galactic battle of wills and wind up trying to destroy a doomsday weapon that can end the Resistance (the new Rebel Alliance) and force the entire galaxy to its knees (the new Starkiller makes the Death Star look like a Roomba vacuum cleaner). The only new things about Awakens is a few new characters and the fresh coat of paint on some old favourites (like the classic X-Wing and TIE fighters). It would have been nice to see a few new tricks and we can only hope that Disney kept them up their sleeve for future films.

The initial disappointment was the movie’s primary villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who is no Darth Vader. Vader was a terrifying presence, an imposing force of nature and even the bravest soul withered in his shadow. Ren is conflicted, uncertain, occasionally petty and he falls well short of being the heartless monster that epic movies require for their heroes. But Awakens appears as if it’s not only introducing new heroes at their moment of origin (as Hope did with Luke Skywalker), but possibly the villain as well and it looks like Ren will become a far more evil instrument of destruction for the rest of the trilogy, his further descent into darkness mirrored by the rise of a new force for good. While the original trilogy was essentially all about the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, this one could well be about the final battle between good and evil, with destruction being the outcome instead of salvation. If that is the case, we can only hope that Driver brings the imposing venom needed to bring the part live.

As for any Star Wars movie, the effects are excellent and the filmmaker’s decision to return to a mixture of visual effects and actual set pieces and physical props makes this the best-looking Star Wars film by far. The franchise looks to be in good acting hands with the casting of virtual unknowns Boyega and Ridley. Boyega brings a few moments of genuine levity to the film while the strong willed Ridley takes her place alongside an impressive crop of female action stars this year.

Awakens should please long time fans, making their favourite toys brighter and shinier while giving them a whole new sandbox to play in. It may also reel in some new fans as well, but the question is was it worth all the hype? Disney’s well oiled promotion machine spent the better part of the last year generating unprecedented buzz and the House of the Mouse broke all kinds of records for advance ticket sales (Canadian theatres fell over themselves to make room on additional screens and adding new showings to meet demand). Make no mistake, Awakens had it’s fair share of moments (a scene where a squadron of X-Wing fighters race to the rescue over a mist covered lake will give you goose bumps) but it often seemed pre-occupied with copying what the original movies did to be successful instead of exploring it’s own potential. It is the movie equivalent of the child full of promise who decides to go into the family business instead of following their own hopes and talents. By all means a perfectly valid, acceptable decision but also one that’s a little disappointing.

Hopefully Abrams and Disney used Force Awakens to get the homage out of their system and they may have already planted seeds to move this trilogy in it’s own direction, a fate it deserves (it would be a shame to see it chained by the original movies). It serves as a decent spring board into the rest of the trilogy, welcoming us back into the Star Wars house, giving us a chance to say hi to some old friends while shaking hands with some new ones. And now that that’s out of the way, let’s hope the kiddie wheels come off and we see where they can really take this franchise.

Shayne Kempton