Categories
Movies Opinion

Dopest Movies of 2019

Last year’s list was so well-received, I just had to run it back. Here are my picks for the Dopest Movies of 2019.

In Fabric

When it comes to movies, I often say “The weirder, the better.” Well, In Fabric is hella weird. I love everything about it. If I was only picking one, In Fabric would be my favorite of 2019.

Knives Out

I find it absolutely hilarious that dorkus malorkus spastics were writing listicles about “All The Ways Rian Johnson Was Dissed in Star Wars 9” – meanwhile Rian Johnson just went out and made a great, original new movie. Oh, and by the way? The most interesting things that happened in the new Star Wars trilogy were in Rian Johnson’s Last Jedi script.

Dragged Across Concrete

I don’t want to overstate it, but it’s like S. Craig Zahler was sent here from above to save us from wack movies. Thank you, S. Craig, I celebrate your entire catalog.

Free Solo

I seldom watch non-fiction stuff, it’s just not my deal, but Free Solo is a must-see. It has to be one of the greatest feats of human achievement ever filmed.

The Lighthouse

A gig working out in the ocean air, lobster for dinner and all the kerosene you can drink? Them wickies got the life.

Midsommar

Hereditary was at the top of my 2018 list and Ari Aster’s follow-up, Midsommar, does not disappoint. He makes broad daylight scary, dude is a master.

The Perfection

This one zigs and zags, always escalating. My friend Mat described the ending as “something out of Takashi Miike” which is spot-on, and a great compliment.

Cold Pursuit

Liam Neeson has sort of become a genre unto himself and Cold Pursuit is a prime cut. It’s a remake of a Norwegian film, In Order of Disappearance, which was directed by the same guy and features Stellan Skarsgard in the lead role. Both versions are great.

Crawl

I usually turn my nose up at killer animal stuff, but Crawl was made by Alexandre Aja, who I’ve always enjoyed. It’s a super solid flick, and I saw it St. Joseph, MO during Crypticon with my Dead Lantern bros, which made it even more fun.

Climax

This is some insane French nonsense about people drinking a bowl full of spiked punch. Lots of long, unbroken takes and technically amazing camerawork. Thumbs up.

Ready or Not

I love the “Surprise! You’re Being Hunted for Sport!” subgenre and Ready or Not is a superior entry. Avoid spoilers, it’s a hoot!

The Furies

Speaking of which, The Furies would make for a pretty good double-feature with Ready or Not. To be frank, this one is borderline. It’s not that great but as I said, I’m a sucker for this subgenre and a gory horror iteration is always gonna work for me.

John Wick 3

It’s true that the John Wick series has gotten silly at this point – e.g. it seems like there are more people in the assassin society than not, like the fry cook at McDonald’s is probably an assassin – but who cares?! So cool, so much fun. I just hope they can continue to deliver.

Tigers Are Not Afraid

I was trying to come up with something pithy, like “Sicario meets The Goonies,” but that’s a little too tryhard.

Joker

I can’t keep up with the varying opinions on this one. I thought it was very good. Who do you suppose is crazier, the Joker or Joaquin Phoenix? 🤔

Rambo: Last Blood

Rambo’s back and ready to kill everybody all over again. Hey, it works. In fact, it’s kinda wild how these old guys are still better at doing this than the younger guys. See also Ahnold in Terminator: Dark Fate, which did not make my list but is still markedly better than, say, Hobbes & Shaw Sniff Their Own Farts.

3 From Hell

Okay, look: I’m sorry. This movie does not belong on a “best of” list. I’m just a sucker for the work of Mr. Robert Zombie, ever since House of 1000 Corpses. I enjoy his shtick and this is more of it. RIP Sid Haig.

Shazam!

Wholesome and fun, Shazam! is a perfect movie to share with kids. I mean kids as in actual children, not the full-grown manchildren who typically go to comic book movies these days.

Uncut Gems

Sandler’s great, sure, but my favorite part of Uncut Gems is Kevin Garnett. I love the stuff with him and the opal. Make a sequel of KG having some kind of adventure with the opal, I’ll buy a ticket.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Everything QT makes is great. Next.

Haunt

A mean little film that punches the clock and puts in an honest day’s work. Add it to your Halloween playlist this year.

Parasite

Bong Joon-ho is tremendous. Look up his older stuff, too, like The Host. You’ll dig it.

High Life

Man, I love my kids but I don’t know if I could handle being alone with them in the vacuum of space unto eternity.

FP2: Beats of Rage

I never dared to dream we’d get an FP sequel. It’s a triumph!

2018 Catch-up: Suspiria

Let me look back for a second to include a movie I missed last year. While we all appreciate the original Argento version, I think this remake is an all-around better film. Also, I’m generally confident that I could win a fistfight with the sort of person who might take umbrage at this hot take so let’s go, nerds, I’m right here.

Thanks for reading! See you back here next year.

Categories
Movies Opinion

Dopest Movies of 2018

I don’t watch as many movies as I used to back in the ‘ol Splattercast days, but I did see a few last year and you people are gonna hear about it! Here are my favorites:

Hereditary

Hereditary is an instant classic, it ranks right up there with Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining and The Exorcist. The trailer alone is better than most other films I’ve watched this year. I think some critics feel it goes a little too bananas in a couple spots but I say tally ’em up because this movie rules. It’s all the more impressive when you consider it’s writer/director Ari Aster’s debut feature. Do yourself a favor and NEVER EVER watch his only prior work, the short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. Holy cow, dude. No.

Mandy

Mandy leans hard on the whole neon-soaked drippy-trippy thing, but I think it works out splendidly. Nicolas Cage is perfect; could anyone else even come close in this role? Not to mention Cheddar Goblin, whose presence alone more than justifies the entire production.

Revenge

Revenge is not just a glitzy take on the terminally icky rape-revenge subgenre, it’s a cracking good action flick in its own right. It’s amazing that this, like Hereditary, is a debut feature. I can’t wait to see who director Coralie Fargeat cuts to ribbons next.

The Ritual

The Ritual features one of the most astounding movie monsters in recent memory, and probably ever. Yet even more harrowing is the meditation on the horror of failing your bros when the chips are down.

Annihilation

Eerie and deeply strange, Annihilation forgoes conventional alien invasion tropes and imagines something else entirely. Forget giant spaceships or egg-laying brood swarms – this is scarier.

The Night Comes for Us

Watching The Night Comes for Us is like sticking your head into a woodchipper. Except, you know… it’s fun.

Upgrade

Upgrade gives me a late-night, throwback VHS vibe that I dig. It’s cool but goofy, slick but cheap. Who doesn’t wish they had guns for hands?

The Predator

I know The Predator was a box office flop, but I loved it and I don’t blame the film at all. I think the contemporary audience simply does not care about this franchise anymore. Too bad, I’d like to have seen a sequel.

Death Wish

Did we really need a Death Wish remake? Probably not, but I’m a sucker for this street-level action stuff. The updated riff on the iconic final beat is great.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

Some people don’t like the hyper-irreverent humor of Teen Titans Go! Those people are joyless turds and they are wrong.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I haven’t given a crap about Spider-man for years but Spider-Verse won me over easily. It’s full of heart and fun, with just enough serious stuff to give it weight without being too dark for kids. I saw both Spider-Verse and Teen Titans Go! with my older two daughters (ages 12 & 8). They loved the movies and my own experience was greatly enhanced by sharing it with them.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

Puppet Master is a garbage-tier franchise. However, when I saw that this latest installment was written by S. Craig Zahler, I had to check it out. Zahler wrote and directed Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, both of which are excellent. Brawl would have been at the top of my “Best of 2017” list, if I had bothered to make one. As an aside, Zahler’s latest, Dragged Across Concrete, may have technically debuted in 2018 but I can’t find it available to watch anywhere. I assume it’s rad.

So, anyway, yes, Zahler and directors Sonny Laguna & Tommy Wiklund came through and made an entertaining Puppet Master movie. It’s still goofy as hell – how could it not be? – but it’s also got actual characters and the gore gags handily surpass anything the previous dozen or so films in this misbegotten series ever mustered.

Halloween

Jettisoning the continuity of the existing sequels was a great move for the new Halloween. They boil it down, make Michael Myers scary again, and actually go somewhere with the story.

The Clovehitch Killer

There was a serial killer whodunnit last year called Summer of ’84 that a lot of people liked, but I just didn’t care for it – although I do appreciate how it threw a bucket of cold water on the ’80s nostalgia trend with its ultragrim final act. The Clovehitch Killer, on the other hand, reeled me in with its portrayal of an otherwise idyllic small community picking up the pieces after being menaced by a killer who was never caught. If you only have time for one sicko-next-door movie, I recommend The Clovehitch Killer.

The Endless

The Endless is unique in that it’s a sort-of sequel to a completely separate movie, but even mentioning that fact is a spoiler of a sort. For those of us who were fortunate enough to see the movies in the correct order and without any inkling of the connection, The Endless was a really cool, really novel experience. Shout-out to my friend Rachel who subtly led me there.

Most Overrated: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Yes, the helicopter chase is neat. Sure. But that may as well be a Red Bull promotional stunt, there’s no movie wrapped around it. Mission: Impossible – Nonsense Subtitle sucks. Nothing happens in this movie (killing Alec Baldwin doesn’t count). There are no stakes and Tom Cruise is getting doughy. Ving Rhames and the English nerd guy destroy the credibility of the whole affair; their characters don’t belong anywhere near any peril. I don’t think Ving Rhames could probably tie his own shoes, so yeah, of course he loses the MacGuffin in the opening scene. And don’t link me any dumb gifs of Henry Cavill “reloading his biceps.” Some behind-the-scenes footage of the cast of The Night Comes for Us getting lunch at the craft services table is certainly more badass than Henry Cavill in this movie. Lastly, we’re supposed to believe the bad guys are super-geniuses but if they were really so smart that one guy would have known he was being lied to as soon as he saw Wolf Blitzer.

Best Old-New-Thing: The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs

I became a fan of Joe Bob Briggs back when he hosted TNT’s Monstervision in the late 1990s. In 2018 the genre streaming service Shudder brought Joe Bob back to do a 24-hour marathon, and it was glorious. The movie choices were fine, but they honestly could have been anything – it’s all about the Joe Bob segments. The Last Drive-In was billed as a farewell to movie hosting, but it was so popular that Shudder has had Joe Bob back to do two more mini-marathons since that first one.

Thus concludes my Dopest Movies of 2018 list. I know there are a few things I missed that probably would have made the cut – I hear great things about Suspiria and Overlord, for example, but I just never got around to seeing them.

Thanks for reading!

Categories
Opinion

My Jaces

While chatting with a dude at the draft table this week about the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern, we both remarked that we could remember specifically where each of our copies came from, and I bet that’s true for a lot of people. I didn’t complete my set of Jaces until well after his time in Standard had come and gone, and I don’t play any Legacy, so it’s perhaps a little strange that I was drawn to collecting a playset at all – but there’s just something about Jace.

My First Jace

While my friends and I had played clueless casual kitchen table Magic for years, I didn’t get my DCI card until July 2009 when my friend Aaron invited me to go play Two-Headed Giant with him at the Core 2010 Prerelease. Even though we lost every match, I was hooked. I had never played Limited before and it was like a whole new world to me. I still have the foil Liliana Vess from our sealed pool, and I remember we tried playing the Darksteel Colossus we also opened.

By the next summer I had become a full-blown enthusiast, frequenting FNM and attending every prerelease. I was having a blast and I wanted to introduce my old friends to all of this amazing Magic stuff that they’d never seen before. I ordered packs of Rise of the Eldrazi and Zendikar-Worldwake from CoolStuffInc.com and got the gang together at my place. We all had fun drafting and playing with the cards but none of my friends were interested in buying in for prizes or even just keeping the cards they opened.

Looking back now, I realize I could have chosen a much better introductory drafting experience to share with this type of group, such as getting a box of Core 2010. For example, I remember one of my friends being confused by Guard Duty – what is this card for? Doesn’t this just make my guy worse? It’s by no means a dumb question if you haven’t played that much, and I certainly don’t expect a new player to pick up on corner cases involving Overgrown Battlement defender decks in a complex format like Rise of the Eldrazi. Compare Guard Duty to, say, Pacifism, which was in Core 2010. I think it’s much clearer to a new player what Pacifism is for, in a basic gameplay sense.

But if I’m honest, that’s a bit overwrought. The simple truth is that my kitchen table group just wasn’t that into it. I had found this new thing that I really loved and I was going to have to go do it without my old friends.

Not to be melodramatic or anything – I of course still have great relationships with those friends (believe it or not I am a functional human being) and we still regularly do non-Magic stuff together. And the other side of the coin is that going out to play Magic has led me to many new friends that I’d never have met otherwise.

After the drafts were done and everyone had gone home, I cleaned up the discarded booster wrappers and gathered up the cards. Nobody had opened anything too special; I think there was a Sorin Markov, maybe a fetchland. There were a few odd packs left over since nobody had wanted to do prizes. Tina cracked them for funsies, she has above average luck when spewing on packs.

“Is this card any good?”

And there was my first Jace.

My Second Jace

The first-ever Modern Format Grand Prix was right here in Lincoln, Nebraska in February 2012. I was incredibly excited to attend, I’d never been to a GP before and having one in my own city was a big thrill. As it turned out, the weather was crummy and the event organizers chose a lame venue on the outskirts of town – who can forget the “#GPHOTH” hashtag? I don’t know if we’ll ever get another try at a GP here in Lincoln, especially with Omaha right next door, but I’d love to see a different organizer take a shot at it. Our downtown area has come a long way since 2012.

I actually had an early version of Birthing Pod at GP Lincoln, which of course would evolve into one of the most powerful decks in the format. However, I was a pretty big donkey at the time so I scrubbed out after just a few rounds despite having a great deck. But, hey, I was just happy to be there so I hung around the event center soaking it all in. I checked out the vendors and got a print of the awesome playmat art signed by Ron Spencer.

I had done plenty of trading with familiar faces at my local store, but I had never interacted with “value traders” before. At the GP, there were lots of these dudes hustling around for trades, and a few of them definitely made me feel uncomfortable. I suppose I may as well have had a flashing neon sign above my head that said “Chump!” I recall getting into a trade with this fellow who I later learned was infamously known as “Bulk Rare Guy,” and I ultimately had to walk away from that deal because it just felt creepy and weird.

After making a few trades with various goofballs I was looking through one last guy’s binder. There was nothing I needed but, on a lark, I asked about his Jace. You’ll recall Jace had been banned from Standard back in 2011 so it hadn’t been a hot commodity for a while, although it was certainly still a valuable card. I was surprised when the guy said “Sure” and started adding up my stuff. He built up a big pile of my Standard rares, I think there were several Daybreak Rangers involved, and made me an offer. I’m certain, especially at that point in time, he was well ahead of me on the trade and this was just one of dozens of deals he made that day while grinding out a profit. As for me, I was just a chump stoked about picking up his second Jace.

My Third Jace

My pal Aaron (same guy who I got my DCI card with) is one of the best dudes I know, just a real treasure and I’m blessed to call him a friend. Although he did bring me to that first prerelease, I quickly got way more into Magic than he cared to be. He’d play with us occasionally and buy a few cards here and there just for fun. One day we were hanging around at a small comic shop, long since closed, and they had a few Worldwake Intro Packs in their clearance bin. Aaron grabbed one and, of course, because it’s Aaron, the booster pack contained a Jace. It’s his good karma. Frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t a foil.

Aaron is one of these IT genius types, he works incredibly hard and has achieved a lot in that space. One of the traits that seems to be common among high-performing IT folks, in my observation, is that they can be a bit messy or scatterbrained with regard to peripheral things that are of lesser importance – e.g. Magic cards. Aaron would leave his cards laying around all over the place, even on the floor. We were hanging out one day and I notice there’s this foil Birds of Paradise laying on the floor near his desk. It was a promo version with beautiful art by Terese Nielsen. So this foil BoP is sitting there, naked, face-up – and this is seared into my memory like John Kerry in Cambodia – Aaron is rolling the wheels of his office chair across the card. Not intentionally, of course, but that’s just Aaron for you. At that point, I knew I had to gank my friend’s property, for everybody’s own good.

I told him, look, dude, this is obviously your stuff and you can take it back at any time but for now I am going to give these cards the safe, loving home that they deserve. A home where they can wear proper sleeves and rest securely in sturdy deckboxes. It’ll be easy enough to identify which Jace is his if he ever needs it back – it’ll be the one in the worst condition!

My Fourth Jace

In late 2013, after Theros came out, the local game store did a cool thing they called the “Clash of Champions.” Basically the top finishers from various pre-release events got to come back and play another Limited tournament for some bigger prizes.

It’s funny (cringey) to go back and read my own posts from that many years in the past. My style has certainly changed a bit. For one, I’m now less inclined to go into the minute details of every round. In fact, I think I kind of sound like a dorkus-malorkus tryhard in that report! I’m still a dorkus-malorkus, mind you, but I don’t think of myself as a tryhard these days.

Regardless, I am still proud of making it to the finals of that tournament. The field was comprised of a bunch of local end-bosses and it felt pretty good to be able to hang in that company. I got a From the Vault: Twenty for second place – and that was my final Jace.

We’ll find out soon enough whether the unbanning was a mistake but even if they have to nuke Jace all over again, I’ll never get rid my set.