KSR’s take on recent non sports related happenings
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 18th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Finally, a Top Chef Kentucky with some more Kentucky! This week, the chefs try their hand at an iconic Kentucky dish and celebrate the state’s bountiful produce and livestock. Well, some of them do, at least. To the recap!
Quickfire Challenge: Reimagine the Hot Brown
The hot brown is one of Kentucky’s most famous dishes, and after hearing about its history, the chefs are tasked with putting their own spin on it. Lena Waithe, an insanely talented actor, screenwriter, and producer, serves as guest judge, and if you haven’t seen the Thanksgiving episode of “Master of None” for which she won an Emmy, consider it your homework.
This Quickfire Challenge is a tough one—will the Cheftestants crack under the pressure? ??
— Bravo's Top Chef (@BravoTopChef) January 17, 2019
Justin and Kentucky girl Sara are the early favorites for the Quickfire Challenge since both serve hot browns in their restaurants. Unfortunately, Sara’s take on the dish, a Scotch Egg, doesn’t get on the plate in time and she’s disqualified, not the first time she’ll struggle in this episode. Of the other hot browns, Padma and Lena give low marks to Brian’s “Nashville Hot Turkey,” which was too dry, and Kelsey’s “Croque Madame Hot Brown,” which had a vinaigrette sauce instead of mornay and was therefore wayyyy too healthy to be considered a Hot Brown. Eddie and Adrienne’s hot browns draw praise from Padma and Lena, but it’s Justin’s “Kentucky Fried Breakfast Brown” that gets the win. As someone who isn’t a fan of hot browns (which I’m sure is because I’ve never tried the one you’ll recommend), even I will admit that it looks delicious:
Elimination Challenge: Carne, Carne, Carne!
The show finally shines a spotlight on Kentucky’s bountiful produce and livestock in this episode, featuring Kentucky Proud products, locally grown ingredients, and locally raised livestock, specifically, beef. Famous chef Nancy Silverton comes in to help Padma present the challenge, which is to prepare a cut of Foxhollow Farm beef assigned to them. All of the chefs are starstruck by Nancy, which I’m sure if totally justified, but I save my fangirling for Dario Cecchini, aka the Mad Butcher of Panzano, who will break down the beef into cuts for the chefs. My husband and I went to Dario’s butcher shop when we went to Italy a few years ago, so this is a huge treat for me. As I wrote on the site afterwards, Dario is a true character and a master of his craft, so good on Top Chef for bringing him in. (That reminds me, we need to use some of that delicious herb salt we bought.)
Anyways, the chefs draw knives to see which cut of meat they’ll be working with. They’ll have 10 minutes to choose local Kentucky ingredients from the pantry, 30 minutes and $100 to spend at Whole Foods, and two hours the next day to prepare a dish for a group of local Kentucky farmers, and, of course, the judges. Brian, who works at a butcher shop on the side, is particularly stoked for this challenge, which Top Chef has taught us is either a really good or a really bad sign for his chances.
The next day, the chefs meet Dario at Decca, a restaurant in Louisville, and my man lives up to his reputation, sharpening his knives while growling “Carne!” and smiling maniacally as he breaks down the cow with ease. From there, the chefs take their cuts of meat and head to the kitchen to get to work.
I won’t bore you with the specifics of each dish, but it’s clear early on who’s in trouble. Kentucky girl Sara drew beef plate as her cut, which she admitted she’s not familiar with. She made it into a sausage, but the casings were too thick, resulting in a soft texture. As a last ditch effort, she throws the pieces in a pan in hopes of adding some crunch, but knows it’s not enough to save her dish. She says she’s “100 percent sure” she’s going home.
Meanwhile, Brandon and David both make steak tartare, which Tom rightfully calls them out on when he visits the kitchen. Brandon’s cut is a loin, so a delicious grilled NY Strip is an obvious choice, but he’s sticking with the tartare because his other attempts at steak so far this season haven’t landed him in the top three. As he’s making his vinaigrette, the top to the grape seed oil bottle falls off and ruins it, forcing him to add xanthan gum to thicken it. You can tell this isn’t going to turn out well.
Brian’s cut is the rib so he makes a charred ribeye, which sounds great, but he cuts off all the good parts. What should be a celebration of meat looks sad, and Tom tells the others after he samples it, “I don’t know how you could cook a piece of meat this poorly.” Ouch.
Most of the chefs struggle with this challenge but a few manage to do justice to the ingredients. Even though he has immunity, Justin nails his flank steak by keeping it simple with a marinade, some polenta and mustard greens. Similarly, Adrienne’s “Black and Bleu” NY Strip with bleu cheese and collard greens is full of flavor. Eddie draws praise for trying something different: ground brisket stuffed in local romaine, a spin on the Polish dish “Golumpki” to honor his Polish heritage.
After scolding the chefs for having “collective amnesia on how to deal with beef” (an awesome burn), Tom praises the three who actually did well: Justin, Adrienne, and Eddie. Eddie gets the win, his first solo victory of the competition, and ditches his resting bitch face for a smile! His prize is an apron signed by Dario and a trip to Tuscany to visit his butcher shop. I’m incredibly jealous. GET THE HERB SALT, EDDIE.
Sara, Brandon, and Brian end up in the bottom three. Tom tells Brian to “stop cooking scared,” aka, don’t torture a piece of meat that’s great all on its own, and lights into Brandon when Brandon reveals he used the xanthan gum as a thickener. Sara is moved to tears when Padma tells her how disappointed she is that a Kentucky girl struggled so much on a Kentucky challenge, but the judges are so pissed about Brandon’s thickener that he’s the one to go home instead. Get it together, Sara!
My Old Kentucky Home Takes
— Some of the Kentucky Proud products featured on the show:
- Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheeses (shoutout to Barren River Lake!)
- Evans Orchard produce (Georgetown)
- Weisenberger Grits (Midway)
- Elmwood Stock Farm Corn Meal (Georgetown)
- Townsends Sorghum Mill Pure Cane Sorghum (Jeffersonville)
- Gilkison Farm Black Raspberry Jam and cheese (Winchester)
- Foxhollow Farm beef (Crestwood)
— Did you know Kentucky is the largest beef-raising state east of the Mississippi? Me neither, but soon, all of my friends will.
Next week: Lake Cumberland with Below Deck‘s Captain Lee and Below Deck Med‘s Captain Sandy! Now we’re talking!
By KSR on ©January 16th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
The Funkhouser Situation is BACK! Listen to Lee Cruse and Chris Tomlin talk about the latest from the world of pop culture, like…
— Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow take on Louis C.K.
— PC attitudes toward comedy.
— Lee shot down a Chris Tomlin movie recommendation.
— There’s another new Ghostbusters, are they interested?
— Is a Men in Black remake necessary?
— HOT GOSS!
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situationpodcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Jake’s Cigar Bar.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 11th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
After back-to-back Restaurant Wars episodes, Top Chef: Kentucky finally showed us a little more Kentucky last night, specifically, the Rathskeller at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville. To the recap!
Oh yeah, Last Chance Kitchen is a thing
Unless you’re a diehard Top Chef fan, you probably don’t pay any attention to Last Chance Kitchen, the show’s online spinoff where eliminated chefs compete for the chance to get back on the show. After Nini was sent packing for her poor front of house management last week, she’s back to face off against last season’s runner up, Brother Luck, which I refuse to believe is a real name. Instead of a Quickfire Challenge this week, the chefs are split up to help either Nini or Brother Luck get back in the competition. Naturally, this is pretty awkward for those that are put on Brother Luck’s team, like Kelsey, who is close friends with Nini. But, Kelsey’s competitive spirit wins out and she, Kentucky girl Sara, Eddie, Brian, and Adrienne help carry Brother Luck to the win. So, for the second week in a row, Nini is eliminated. That’s gotta sting.
Elimination Challenge: Prohibition Era-style party
Speakeasys are all the rage these days, and Louisville’s Seelbach Hotel is the perfect setting for this week’s Prohibition Era-style challenge. The chefs are tasked with creating a canape to pair with a classic cocktail of the time period for 100 guests. Nic Christiansen, the beverage director of Butchertown Grocery, introduces the cocktails they’ll have to choose from: Gin Rickey, Southside Fizz, Old Fashioned, The Last Word, Whiskey Sour, and the 12 Mile Limit. Only two chefs can be pick a certain cocktail, meaning the last to pick may not end up with their first choice. They’ve got 30 minutes to shop at Whole Foods, three hours to prep and cook, and an additional hour before the party starts the next day.
While the chefs take their fleet of red BMWs to Whole Foods, we learn more about Brother Luck, whose parents were exotic dancers. Maybe his name really is Brother Luck. Some of the other chefs — cough, Kelsey, cough — are a bit standoffish because of their loyalty to Nini, but he makes the best of an awkward situation. Speaking of Kelsey, we find out she used to have a dog named Gatsby, which makes me immediately like her more because same.
All of the chefs are impressed by the Seelbach Hotel when they arrive the next day, and rightfully so. I’ve never been to the Rathskeller bar, but it is a stunner, right out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel — literally. As the guests file in to the dining room, Tom, Padma, Graham Elliot and guest judge chef Ken Oringer make their entrance, all decked out in 1920’s attire, which makes me wonder if Padma came up with this challenge just so she could wear that flapper dress.
Break out your flapper dresses and top hats, we're headed back to the Roaring 20's!
— BravoTopChef (@BravoTopChef) January 10, 2019
Here’s each dish with the corresponding cocktail:
- Eddie: Bourbon-cured salmon crudo with peach puree, caramelized orange gastrique, and brown butter
- Justin: Duck a l’orange with duck liver mousse, bourbon, and greens
- Brandon: Duck and artichoke croquette with pickled fennel relish
- Michelle: Liver mousse gougeres with pickled cherries
- Brother Luck: Chicken salad with cucumber, peanut sauce, beef liver mousse, fresno chiles and herbs
The Last Word
- Brian: Pork, fennel, and Calabrian chile sausage with basil and fennel gnocchi
- Sara: Bay scallops, avocado, eggplant, and crudite
- Kelsey: Scallop ceviche, rhubarb cherry consomme, and corn puree
- Eric: Oysters with bourbon and rum mignonette, grenadine nage floater and pumpernickel
- David: Shrimp tartare, cucumber, apple and radish
- Adrienne: Shrimp and avocado toast with cucumber, watermelon, juniper, and serrano chile
The judges like Kelsey’s scallops, Eric’s oysters, and Eddie’s bourbon-cured salmon the most, with Graham going as far to say the oysters were one of the best things he’s eaten in a while. As a result, Eric gets the win. Congrats, Eric!
As good as the top three dishes were, the bottom three dishes were bad. Tom says Sara’s bay scallops with avocado and eggplant tasted like “a dip you’d find at a table at a PTA meeting.” Ouch! Brian’s sausage and gnocchi didn’t fare much better, with Tom saying it tasted like “sand in a cup” and Padma comparing the gnocchi to a “greasy sponge.” Ultimately, because Brother Luck’s chicken dish with liver mousse was too spicy and had nothing to do with his cocktail, he is sent home. Brother, we hardly knew ye.
Next week: A butchering challenge with Dario Cecchini, the Mad Butcher of Panzano! I can’t wait.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 04th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
This week’s Top Chef: Kentucky picks up where last week’s left off: Restaurant Wars. Just before the doors to their pop-up restaurants opened, the chefs were informed that this is a double elimination, meaning two of them are going home. But, you know, no pressure or anything. To the recap!
Guests start to file in to each of the three restaurants, and to my surprise, look who it is: TERRY MEINERS! Being the Kentucky royalty that they are, Terry and his wife Mary were invited to the taping and ate at North East, the restaurant run by Eric, Eddie, Adrienne, and Brian. This ended up being a blessing. More on Terry later.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how each restaurant fared when the judges hit the floor:
North East: Eric, Eddie, Adrienne (Executive Chef), and Brian (Front of House)
Apparently assigning numbers to tables and getting the correct dishes to them is really hard because each team struggled with it; however, Adrienne and Brian seem to tackle this issue better than the rest. I had to laugh when the hostess didn’t recognize Padma and her power suit when the judges walked in, but hey, that’s probably good for Padma. Humbling.
The judges worry the rest of the patrons’ food is coming out too slowly, so Brian and Adrienne kick it in to gear and get the food out. Tom says Brian’s chicken ballotine is perfectly cooked, which is surprising given the attention to it in last week’s episode (usually a death knell). Eddie’s striped bass crudo was dubbed “the forgotten crudo” by a patron because it was so bland, but his NY strip is great and his puree “eats like magic” (whatever that means). The pork in Eric’s scallops dish is way too salty, which you could have guessed when Adrienne admits it was the one dish she didn’t have time to taste. The judges love Adrienne’s cheese course and the peach dessert. Bland crudo and salty pork aside, North East did great, and Adrienne and Brian worked together well. Watching Terry Meiners sneak glances at the judges in the background is an added bonus.
By Nick Roush on ©January 04th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
One of Kentucky’s finest is one of the best to ever play Survivor.
Williamsburg native and UK alumnus Nick Wilson won season 37 of Survivor, David vs. Goliath, in December. This morning he spoke to T.J. Walker and I about his experience for more than 30 minutes on Kentucky Roll Call.
The conversation was not like most radio interviews. Nick and I spent a couple years living together in a soon-to-be condemned fraternity house. T.J. is a lifelong Survivor fan. Between the two of us, we spent plenty of time geeking and picking his brain about how the reality show works.
Filmed in the spring, Nick had to keep show secrets for about seven months. That was not his greatest dilemma. That occurred as the Kentucky fan was departing for Fiji in the middle of the NCAA Tournament.
“I watched the first half of the Sweet 16 game in my hotel room. We were in the airport during the second half. I was like, ‘Can I go to the bathroom?’ I went to the bar and looked for the highlights and saw we lost,” Nick said. “I was probably the only Kentucky fan in the country that was glad we lost. I was so relieved.
“I cannot have the Cats going on a Final Four run when I am cut off from society for two months. That would’ve been all I thought about for the next six, seven weeks. I was so excited during the first half. I was like, ‘Let’s go Cats!’ Then once I stepped away from the TV, I was like, ‘Holy crap. If they win, I’m going to go crazy.'”
Kentucky’s loss was Nick’s gain. He kept his sanity throughout his Survivor experience, thanks to his small-town Eastern Kentucky roots.
“I gotta win for them. I felt like if I didn’t win I wouldn’t get everything out of this experience for me and the community,” he said.
“It motivated me, and that’s the God’s honest truth. When we would ride that boat to a challenge, I would think that I know when I get home and this is airing that everybody’s going to be so excited for me and supporting me non-stop. I wanna make ’em proud. The area we live in Southeastern Kentucky, where kids — I remember being in school and teachers ask, ‘What you wanna do?’ And they wouldn’t know or care. I wanted to win or at least do really well so people can look up to me because it’s a dream I had forever. I kept trying and trying until I got it. I worked hard for it and I felt like I earned it.”
Nick did not disappoint anybody in his community when he earned $1 million as the season 37 winner of Survivor.
The Survivor conversation begins around the 33-minute mark of today’s podcast.
Nick gets more bonus points for celebrating his victory at KSBar.
It’s been a crazy holiday season for movies, and The Funkhouser Situation is here to dissect all the madness! Your hosts Chris Tomlin and Lee Cruise dive into movies such as The Mule, Bumblebee, Mary Poppins, The Predator, and much, much more.
Here is a breakdown of what you can expect from the show:
- Lee’s sultry voice is a great addition to today’s episode
- Lee is not a fan of The Favourite
- Lee gives his take on Clint Eastwood’s The Mule. Lee originally told Chris he didn’t like it. What changed?
- Did Chris like Bumblebee?
- Lee gives an interesting backstory on the absence of Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins Returns
- Chris isn’t sure about the Meryl Streep scene in Mary Poppins Returns
- How did seeing Mary Poppins Returns lead Lee to go home and watch Paddington?
- What is up with Holmes & Watson?
- Chris was expecting more from The Predator but still worth a watch
- Lee is a big fan of Jeffrey Dean Morgan
- Chris recommends The American Meme to Lee
- Chris and Lee debate latest controversy surrounding Louis C.K.
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situationpodcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Jake’s Cigar Bar.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 31st, 2018 @ 3:30pm
For the second week in a row, Top Chef: Kentucky didn’t showcase a lot of Kentucky, but it’s okay because we were treated to the challenge of the season earlier than usual: Restaurant Wars. To the recap!
This week’s Quickfire Challenge is to create an “amuse bouche,” aka the perfect bite. The chefs are given 30 minutes and split into three groups based on the types of plates they’ll have to use: Chinese spoons, ramekins, or small plates. The guest judges are Top Chef alums and James Beard award winners Karen Akunowicz and Nina Compton, who reminisce about how stressful the show was.
Brandon’s chowder, Eric’s curry bisque, and Michelle’s halibut with compressed watermelon finish in the top three while Adrienne’s bell pepper-wrapped lamb, David’s pasta, and Kelsey’s shrimp and grits hush puppy land in the bottom three. Michelle’s halibut gets top marks, which means she wins immunity, and the coy smile she gives the camera reminds me her grandmother was a shaman for the cartel. Again, don’t mess with Michelle.
Elimination Challenge: Restaurant Wars!
If you’ve watched Top Chef before, you know the highlight of every season is Restaurant Wars, where the chefs are split into two teams to open pop up restaurants. This usually comes later in the season, but the judges surprised the chefs early this year and split the group into teams of three based on their plating choices from the Quickfire Challenge. Each team will have two days to conceptualize, design, and open their restaurant, with $3,500 for ingredients and 30 minutes to plan their menu.
The Orange Team consists of Eric, Eddie, Adrienne, and Brian, and since they’re all from the Northeast, they decide to call their restaurant — wait for it — North East. They elect Brian to run the front of the house and Adrienne executive chef, and the fact that Brian is so confident about his chicken ballotine (deboned chicken stuffed and rolled before being cooked) should be a clue that this might not work out so well; however, Brian is more confident than we’ve seen him all season and stays up all night working on a server’s manual. Go Brian!
The Grey Team is Sara, Pablo, Michelle, and Brandon, and decides to call their restaurant “Thistle” since it’ll be focused on vegetable dishes, BUT NOT VEGETARIAN (that part’s in caps because the concept Sara comes up with seems to really worry Pablo. I hear you, Pablo). Sara immediately assumes control, taking the front of house role, while Michelle offers to be executive chef to take the pressure off the others since she’s got immunity. Once again, Sara’s confidence seems to rub her teammates — in this case, Pablo — the wrong way, but she seems at ease organizing the servers and setting things up.
The Teal Team is made up of Kelsey, Nini, Justin, and David. Since the majority of them are from the South, they name their restaurant “Third Coast” with a modern antebellum theme, or, as Justin calls it, “Forrest Gump’s mom’s house 2.0.” Hilariously, they hold their team meeting in the giant jacuzzi at the mansion while drinking champagne, but the good vibes quickly wear off. Nini takes the role of front of house and immediately seems in over her head, which is even more worrisome since she’s also doing a complicated ice cream dessert that requires stirring before service. Cue the foreshadowing! Like a true Southern boss lady, Kelsey steps in and takes control when she realizes the servers have no idea what they’re doing, which annoys Justin and David because they need her in the kitchen.
With two minutes left until the restaurants open, Tom steps in and drops a bomb: this is a double elimination challenge, meaning two chefs will go home. EEEK. Of course, we’ll have to wait until next week to find out who. To be continued…
My Old Kentucky Home Takes
— The only parts of Kentucky we really got to see was the Lundy’s special event warehouse in Lexington where the chefs’ pop-up restaurants are set up and a short B-Roll montage of Lexington landmarks. The Kentucky Theater sign looks good, though.
— Did you notice several of the chefs drinking Ale-8-One at the beginning? Nice touch.
— Eddie managed not to spend the team’s entire budget while at Whole Food. PROGRESS, EDDIE!
Next: Restaurant Wars, Part II. Padma spits something out and two chefs are going home. Oh, the drama!
Let’s get this out of the way first: you will more than likely disagree with this list. In fact, I encourage disagreement when it comes to movies. This is a medium that is meant to be subjective. Everyone’s favorite movies should be different because we are all individuals who like different things.
This list is solely what I believe to be the very best movies that I watched this year and trust me when I say that I saw a lot (27 to be exact). Of course, I did not get around to every single supposedly good film just yet (Bohemian Rhapsody, Aquaman, Eighth Grade, The Favorite, etc.), but thanks to my Movie Pass I was able to see a very well-rounded group of films.
What stood out the most to me this year was just how many non-terrible movies I watched. Out of the all movies I watched I saw only a few that were sincerely terrible (I’m looking at you Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Venom, and Bird Box).
Without further ado, here are the very best films of 2018.
Honorable Mention: Green Book, Creed II, Ant Man and the Wasp, and Deadpool 2
10. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
I know starting this list off with a documentary isn’t exactly the sexiest pick but trust me on this one. I can’t urge you enough to take time out of your day to watch this beautiful film.
This documentary about the life and philosophy of Fred Rogers from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is the perfect film for 2018. The current social and political discourse of this year has been fueled so much by hate and negativity, and it is so incredibly refreshing to see a picture that displays perfectly to us all why it is so important to simply be kind to your fellow man.
There are so many moments in this documentary that will have you reaching for the tissues but allow me to give you what is without a doubt the most moving sequence of the film and possibly the entire year.
If that wrecked you then just be ready for the full-length documentary. Possibly more than any other movie on this list, I urge you to show this to your family and to your children. We will all be better for it. Here’s to you Mr. Rogers. We miss you dearly.
9. A Quiet Place
Ohhhhhh man this might have been my personal favorite movie of the year. I positively loved this movie as its everything I look for in a suspense thriller. The idea behind this movie is ingenious: A family must survive in the woods without making any noise or terrifying monsters will come and kill them.
The result is a mostly silent movie. There is maybe a paragraph or so of overall spoken dialogue as the family often communicates to each other using sign language. This provided me with one of the most unique film experiences I’ve ever had. The audience around me was completely silent (until the scary stuff happened). I could feel the entire room tensing up through the silent parts as if the monsters would come get them as well if they made any noise.
However, A Quiet Place isn’t a truly a great film because the premise is so great, or that the performances and direction are perfect, or that it’s great incredibly entertaining. It’s one of the best movies of the year because the film deals with the toughest kind of family issues such as overcoming tragedy, acceptance, and forgiveness. Every parent should go see A Quiet Place just for the moral given in the film’s poignant climax alone. It never once felt preachy, but this movie has something very important to say.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect flick. There are a few fake-out jump scares spread throughout the runtime which was frustrating and unnecessary. Also, the very last shot of the film was incredibly cheesy.
Only time will tell if this film will be deemed as a horror classic, but I won’t be forgetting A Quiet Place anytime soon. When I walked out of the theater I found myself thinking about the relationships in my own life while I was admittedly still not trying to make any noise out of fear. It turns out that the old saying is very true – nothing is louder, or more effective, than the sound of silence.
Hereditary deeply scared me on a mental level. To be clear, jump scares when used effectively can scare me. But what truly scares me is the type of terror that lingers within yourself. The only other time I ever left the theater feeling that type of dread after a movie was when I watched The Conjuring.
The difference is, however, that I would love to watch the Conjuring again. It’s a great and entertaining scary movie. Hereditary on the other hand deals with real horror in the realms of mental illness, family issues, and eventually even the supernatural.
Which is where my one nitpick comes in to play. The ending will be too “out there” for general audiences which is really a shame. This movie takes a really strong supernatural turn in the final act, and boy do they realllllly go for it. I understood what was happening, but if you didn’t pay much attention during the film, then you will leave completely lost.
However, there are two scenes in that I would argue are all-time great horror movie sequences. The first being the legendary surprise that happens around the 30-minute mark, and the second being Toni Collette’s devastating wall crawl in the film’s finale.
This movie made me feel absolutely terrible after watching it, and I genuinely don’t want to watch it again (which is a good thing). The bad news is that does not even matter, because the scenes and images I witnessed are still at the forefront of my brain and are still upsetting me. And that is what true horror in its purest form should accomplish.
7. Avengers Infinity War
This is the movie that absolutely should not have worked on any level. Dealing with so many characters and plotlines while still making an entertaining and emotional movie should be impossible. But this is Marvel and the Russo Brothers we are talking about here. The impossible is possible for them.
By mainly focusing on the villain Thanos (played masterful by Josh Brolin) we get one of the MCU’s best overall villains. How Marvel actually made me sympathize with someone who wants to kill trillions of people, is both disturbing and amazing. His story is just so compelling. It’s the best aspect of this movie.
Infinity War also manages to be at times hysterical (WHY IS GAMORA???) and of course always so entertaining. This movie also contains one of the very best scenes in superhero movie history: Thor’s entrance into Wakanda.
Overall, this is a very hard movie to review. The problem is that it does not stand on its own well at all. That may sound obvious but imagine not watching several other MCU movies before this. You would be completely lost and more importantly you would not care as much about any of the characters.
That may not sound fair, but that’s why it is not higher on my list. If it stood on its own better (which I think Avengers Endgame will do) than it would have been higher.
Look, I know I’m not winning any fans by putting a black-and-white foreign language Netflix movie higher than Infinity War, but some men just want to watch the world burn.
— The Playlist ? (@ThePlaylist) December 26, 2018
In all seriousness, Roma is a literal piece of art. This is the most beautiful-looking picture of the year as the camera work by director Alfonso Cuaron might just be the best of this decade. This may win best picture at the Oscars, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind if it did.
From a technical perspective, this film is close to perfect. The editing, directing, and acting is all at the highest level possible. The negative aspect of the film is that its overall story is just lacking when compared to my top-five. I’m not saying that it isn’t incredibly emotional or important, because Roma is those things.
Also, the first 20 minutes of this movies are incredibly hard to sit through because it really is that boring before the story really gets moving. If you don’t mind having to read subtitles, then I fully recommend Roma. As an art film it’s basically perfect. As a movie with an emotional story it might just move you to tears in its climax.
5. Black Panther
Look, I know I’m not winning any fans by putting what might just be the most divisive MCU movie ever over that universe’s hugely important Infinity War, BUT SOME MEN JUST WANT TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN.
You can get mad all you want, but I genuinely think that Black Panther is one of the five best movies I saw this year. If you are mad now, just wait until this movie gets an Oscar nomination for best picture because that will happen folks.
Updated odds to win the Oscar for Best Picture (@betonline_ag):
A Star is Born -125
Black Panther +750
Green Book +900
First Man +1000
If Beale Street Could Talk +1200
The Favourite +1800
The Rider +3300
— OddsShark (@OddsShark) November 28, 2018
This movie fixes all of Marvel’s biggest flaws. Unmemorable soundtracks? Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Kendrick Lamar fixes that here. Bad Villains? Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is the best villain in this entire universe. Lack of strong female characters? This movie has the strongest female characters in the MCU.
Black Panther engages with intense themes such as isolationism, colonialism, the legacy of slavery, immigration, and OH MY GOD HOW DID MARVEL SUCCESSFULLY MAKE THIS MOVIE ENTERTAINING??
The best movies give something back to its audiences while also being incredibly entertaining. Black Panther does that easily while transcending its own genre. You will think about your place in the world after watching this movie. This isn’t just the pinnacle of MCU movies, it might just be the peak of all superhero movies.
For some context here, I’m honestly not a very big Spike Lee fan at all. I think “Do the Right Thing” is really his only masterpiece and all his other films are anywhere from decent to just bad.
That changed completely for me when I watched BlacKkKlansman. I think this is sincerely Lee’s best movie, and he will easily earn his first Oscar nomination for directing with this picture. This was one of the most emotional movies of the year as scene after scene completely leveled me.
Lee takes a story about a black police officer who infiltrates the KKK and perfectly translates it to our current political state. This leads me to my warning for you: BlacKkKlansman is unapologetically political.
The film has some very, very serious things to say and Lee pulls no punches at all. The movie is better for it. There is no tiptoeing or missed opportunities to showcase powerful opinions. It delves head first into these and creates a powerful dialogue about race in our country that I believe everyone should at least hear.
Aside from the serious aspects of this movie, Lee’s film is surprisingly hilarious at times on purpose. Actors Adam Driver and John David Washington (Denzel’s son) work off each other amazingly well as their comedic timing is perfect. This is easily Lee’s most entertaining movie which is another reason why it’s so high on my list.
The biggest reason this movie is so high on my list is because of the ending. It’s so impactful because of its brutal honesty and timeliness. Just be ready for it. No matter what your political stance is, it will create some type of emotional reaction out of you and that’s what the very best films accomplish.
3. Mission Impossible: Fallout
I’ve only seen the first three movies in this series and I just thought they were solid action films. I haven’t even seen the fourth and fifth installments because in all honesty I just wasn’t that interested in doing so.
But WOW was “Fallout” not only the year’s best action movie, but it is hands down the best action flick of this decade. To be clear, this movie follows the same basic formula that most high stakes action films do. However, what makes it the best is the amazing real stunts that are pulled off and how they are filmed.
Every single action-packed scene is filmed in beautiful wide shots, so the viewer can clearly see what’s happening. There is little to no CGI used at all which makes every moment feel real. There is one scene towards the end of the movie which features an awe-inspiring helicopter chase which has some of the best real stunts ever put to screen.
However, the real moneymaker here is a bathroom fight featuring Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill that will go down in cinematic history as perfection.
Cruise is over 50 years old and the fact that he does all his own stunts in an insanely good action movie is just unbelievable. This is his film and he is having the time of his life. Henry Cavill also eats up every bit of the scenery as the best villain in the entire franchise.
Coming into 2018 I had zero intention of putting “Fallout” as one of the year’s best movies. However, it completely blew me away with wall-to-wall action and amazing cinematography. It really is that good.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Yes, I’m completely serious, and I couldn’t be happier to put this movie as my second favorite film of the year. Allow me to start off my argument with the following scene:
Spider-Verse is an absolute experience as the animation might be the most creative I’ve ever seen in a theater. Within the first few minutes you will be fully immersed in the world of this movie without even realizing it.
I firmly and honestly believe this animated superhero movie has earned all the following accolades: the biggest surprise of the year, the best superhero movie of the year, the best Spider-Man film ever made, and the second-best superhero movie of all time.
Of course, it isn’t all those things just because of the outstanding animation and action. It’s a truly great film because of the story that Sony has created. It’s so moving and inspiring in the way that a Spider-Man movie should be. Spider-Verse is never afraid to be completely unique in its hysterical comedy and heart-rendering moments.
I cannot urge you enough to go watch this movie with your entire family because it truly is a movie for everyone. Spider-Verse’s beautiful main point is to show that anyone can step-up and be a hero. Anyone can be Spider-Man. However, I now prefer my Spider-Man to be wearing Nikes as he flies across the New York skyline to save the day.
1. A Star Is Born
This is hands-down the movie of the year. In today’s time you really don’t find a film that is universally loved by everyone, but that’s exactly what director Bradley Cooper has given us with A Star Is Born.
Let’s start with Lady Gaga. I can say confidently that I’m not a fan of hers, but wow did she give the performance of a lifetime here. It will be an utter disgrace if she does not walk away with the Oscar. The same can also be said for Cooper and Sam Elliott who give their career-best performances as well.
I’m expecting close to a clean-sweep at the Academy Awards. This should easily win best picture. The acting and directing is so amazing in this movie that it truly feels as if you watching real-life moments taking place.
However, this is the best movie of 2018 because of how it managed to affect me personally. Cooper created a story which deals with investigating relationships particularly between a man and a woman in love and what happens when the man is crippled by something is his past that won’t let him go.
This hit me at my very core by coincidence as I was going through something like that in my own life when I watched the film. Movies hit us in different ways at different moments in our lives. I just found myself completely taken back by Cooper’s character Jackson.
Luckily for me, A Star Is Born managed to touch me on a personal level in ways that I was not prepared for, but I needed. The very best movies successfully entertain us, move us, and shatter our emotions all at once. That’s exactly this film did, and I’ll always be thankful I watched it.
This was sincerely a great year at the movies, and I hope it was for you as well!
Reviewing the standalone prequel Bumblebee, which takes place in 1987 and exists as both part of Michael Bay’s loud, noisy Transformers universe and yet someone cozily outside of it, is the equivalent of the misogynistic 1980s teen-movie trope of taking overalls and glasses off a teen girl and finding she’s a beauty the whole time. Here, all this time, this long-beloved universe of toys had inside it a fantastic film potential; it simply needed to be spotlit and given some attention — and a dreamy 1980s soundtrack doesn’t hurt.
The fact that Bumblebee’s 1980s kindhearted-alien-who-befriends-a-young-earthling conceit works so well has to, I would imagine, be attributed to executive producer Steven Spielberg, himself the master of that very convention in the actual 1980s. But the real reason Bumblebee seems so breezy and digestible is that whereas Bay filled his five films with ear-splitting explosions, breakdancing robots and overstuffed storylines (They’re on the moon! There’s a robot dinosaur! There’s…King Arthur?), Travis Knight’s prequel is content to drill down and focus essentially the titular robot and the two bounty hunter-type robots who’ve come to track him down. Meanwhile, a government team led by John Cena is similarly trying to find the yellow Autobot. Oh, and there’s a young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who’s just turned eighteen and coming of age.
Those three simple, familiar storylines stay pretty rote, and that’s not a terrible thing for Bumblebee — in fact it’s refreshing — as it gives the title character room to breathe, charm and show off a personality often lost in Bay’s special effects showcases. It’s all very Spielbergian, and for light, family-friendly holiday fare it pretty much works. Sure, there are still big, dumb, robots-punching-robots scenes; the difference is that we care a little bit more because there feels like an investment is involved.
It’s not perfect, and it certainly doesn’t reinvent the Transformers wheel. It does, after all, still exist in the same universe as Bay’s films, so hands are tied a bit there — but there’s a heart here which didn’t previously exist, along with some effective humor (a quick moment where Cena actively questions whether the US military should be working with beings who actively introduced themselves as “Decepticons” is particularly wry), and a bit of emotional heft.
Thought at the end of the day Bumblebee may eventually be lost to the Transformers canon along with all the other boisterousness and bluster, there’s hope that it can live on its own as an oft-visited family film that finds some legs long after its season is over. I hope it will and think it will, if nothing else than because it’s the both type of film you can casually drift in and out of and one the family can enjoy together. That remains to be seen but certainly, this Christmas, Bumblebee doesn’t deserved to be seated at the same table as it’s loud, goofy cousins.
Editor’s note: The following piece was contributed by Beth Dunston: Librarian, book critic and begrudging sister to Camerman Daniel. She might not know sports but she knows Mary Poppins. Enjoy!
Mary Poppins Returns is a movie that was probably written by a committee in a Disney office tower, but boy did that committee have a blast. The film will tap into your nostalgia with scenes directly inspired by iconic moments from the 1964 classic, but it will also entertain younger generations with a more action-packed plot, a sinister villain, and a CGI upgrade.
In Returns, Michael, the little boy from the original movie is a recent widower facing financial trouble while raising three kids of his own with some help from his sister Jane. Into this doom and gloom swoops Mary Poppins, here to help teach the kids (and their now-adult counterparts) to have fun and use their imaginations to process their very real anxieties. This in itself is a great lesson – life is hard, and sometimes people, especially kids, need a little bit of magic just to get through the day. Mary Poppins accomplishes this, of course, through magical shenanigans, colorful feasts for your eyeballs, and catchy musical numbers. The songs themselves are all delightful earworms and the cast performs them with infectious delight. An early scene (shown in the trailer) involving a trip through an enchanted bathtub is particularly wonderful.
Disney clearly adores the original film’s ground-breaking set pieces, but it also doesn’t trust them to hold a modern audience’s attention. This means there are a few awkwardly-inserted action scenes, one of which might be a little scary for younger children. But truth be told, no one, child or adult, in my theater ever cheered or laughed out loud at scenes that were clearly supposed to generate those reactions, and, while it’s fun, I’m not sure the movie will succeed in being a modern classic, or even memorable. Furthermore, these action-packed scenes and a more adult-centered conflict sometimes work against the film’s charming musical numbers, making the story feel a little unfocused, overlong, and cluttered, to the point that it will test both you and your kids’ patience (and bladders). A scene involving Meryl Streep becomes particularly tiresome very quickly.
The film’s minor flaws are balanced out by Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who shine throughout the movie. Blunt in particular is electric, channeling Julie Andrews in a performance that feels just as larger-than-life as the character she’s playing. Miranda is having a blast as Jack, a stand-in for Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep Bert. The pair’s chemistry crackles across the screen, making their duets a delight.
For better or worse, Returns has it all – action, romance, comedy, social commentary – even subtle sex jokes (Don’t worry, they’ll all go over your kids’ heads.)! Ultimately, this attempt to make every fan happy collapses under its own weight. You (and your kids) will likely still have a great time singing along to the songs, and there’s certainly a lot to enjoy. It’s just like a holiday candy bar: a fun and sweet treat that will leave you feeling vaguely unsatisfied. It’s not necessarily a must-see, but you ought to go if you’re a huge fan of the character or of the family musical genre. I rate this film 7 out of 10, and I rate Dick Van Dyke’s dance moves 10/10. That man’s still got it.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 21st, 2018 @ 3:30pm
It’s Christmas week on Top Chef: Kentucky (even though I’m pretty sure they filmed this during the summer). Most of the action takes place indoors this episode, meaning we don’t get to see a lot of our Old Kentucky Home, but there are still plenty of desserts and drama to drool over. To the recap!
Quickfire: The worst gift exchange ever
Top Chef Season 14 winner Brooke Williamson and Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais help Padma out with this week’s Quickfire Challenge. The chefs will have 30 minutes to create a holiday dish but only two minutes to choose their ingredients. Of course, there’s a twist. Once the chefs return from the pantry, Padma tells them they must swap their ingredients in a White Elephant gift exchange. Brian gets really excited about the “Yankee Swap,” yelling out, “I’m from Boston, you know what I mean!” Yeah…we know that apparently you don’t realize that White Elephant gift exchanges happen everywhere, not just in the Northeast. Also, the ingredients you chose suck, so you’re really lucky.
Anyways, the chefs make do with what they have. The judges praise Sara’s take on fried chicken livers and Nini’s cream cheese chutney with apples, but it’s David’s leek noodles that get the win and immunity in the elimination challenge. Back-to-back Quickfire wins for David! Considering he only had leeks to work with, that’s pretty impressive.
Elimination Challenge: Too many cooks in the kitchen
The chefs return to the mansion (aka “The Avish” in Prospect, if you missed last week’s recap), where they’re greeted by Tom Colicchio, Graham Elliot, and OMG IT’S ERIC RIPERT. Everyone’s favorite French chef is joining the gang for a “Réveillon de Noël,” or traditional Christmas feast. Some of the chefs almost wet themselves with excitement, but to be fair, it would be like Freddie Maggard crashing your Citrus Bowl watch party. Eric Ripert is a big damn deal!
Just as the chefs are starting to relax, the realization dawns on them that of course this isn’t just a magical Christmas feast in the middle of May with Eric Ripert; this is also the elimination challenge. The chefs have two hours to make one of the 13 desserts that are part of a traditional Réveillon de Noël. The extra twist? They have to do it in the kitchen at the mansion. All 13 of them.
Since I watch both Top Chef and The Great British Baking Show, I know that “cooking” and “baking” are two entirely different things, so naturally, some of the chefs are worried, with Brian going as far to complain, “I cut meat, I don’t bake.” In fact, Nini and Kelsey are the only chefs with pastry experience. Nini, an intense little thing, threatens to kill anyone who opens the bottom oven while her pastry is inside, and then Sara goes and opens it. Given the ominous music that plays when this happens, I thought it was going to be a much bigger deal than it ended up being. Phew.
At judging, the chefs present their dishes. The judges don’t hold back, comparing Adrienne’s almond daquoise to “frozen orange juice” and swearing off biscuits after tasting Brian’s sweet and savory offering. Pablo’s dark chocolate tart is too boring and Kevin’s ricotta cake is too salty, which Brandon tried to warn him about in the kitchen.
In the end, Kelsey’s chocolate pot de crème, Nini’s blackberry and lemon vacherin, and Eddie’s strawberry shortcake crumble are the top three dishes. Nini wins her second straight Elimination Challenge, but it was nice to see Eddie get some praise. He was still beating himself up over last week’s lamb debacle. IT’S OKAY, EDDIE!
Kevin’s salty ricotta cake, Pablo’s basic chocolate tart, and Brian’s vinegary biscuit make up the bottom three. While all three dishes were gross, Kevin is the one who goes home because his dish was “so salty it was inedible.” But it’s all good, guys. He got to eat with Eric Ripert and someone’s going to water his garden for him.
My Old Kentucky Home Takes
— Again, aside from the wild turkeys outside the mansion at the beginning of the episode, we didn’t get to see much of the Bluegrass State; however, I am all for the budding bromance between Brian and Brandon. The bonding moment over Brandon’s hair straightener was kind of awesome.
— Kentucky girl Sara had a good week after coming off as a bit cocky in the last episode. We got to hear a little bit more about her childhood as “the only Jewish kid in Kentucky” and her biscuit with coconut “whooped” cream looked great to me. It is more fun when you say “whooped”!
— I wonder who ended up having to clean the kitchen the next day? Did they make Kevin do it before he left?
Next week: Restaurant wars, bubble baths, and hopefully more of the Bluegrass State.
By KSR on ©December 18th, 2018 @ 4:30pm
It’s The Funkhouser Situation’s Holiday Extravaganza! Lee Cruse and Chris Tomlin dissect and debate a list of the supposed 40 Best Christmas Movies of All-Time. Light your Yule log and enjoy Funkhouser’s holiday cheer that also features…
— A show recommendation for the listening audience.
— The Top 10 Toys this Christmas season.
— Billboard’s Top Grossing Holiday Songs by download.
— Somebody is having issues with their chair.
— Chris is a big man child.
— How do they feel about Christmas Vacation?
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situation podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 15th, 2018 @ 8:47am
Last week, Top Chef introduced its contestants to Kentucky with a trip to Churchill Downs and a Kentucky Derby party-themed challenge. This week, the chefs visited another recognizable Kentucky landmark, Maker’s Mark, where they tried their hand at some of the Bluegrass’ most famous dishes. To the recap!
Quickfire: Feed Pregnant Gail
First things first: Gail Simmons is super pregnant so she can’t be a judge this season; however, she’s still making the chefs cook for her, which I admire. This week’s Quickfire Challenge is to make Gail a dish to satisfy her pregnancy cravings, which include red meat, spicy food, Middle Eastern food, Asian food, and lots of pasta. Predictably, most people make steak and David’s ribeye with corn wins out after his ingredients are flown up to New York and Gail and her friend make the dish themselves. I get that Gail can’t fly because she’s in her third trimester, but this seemed like a lot of work for a Quickfire. Anyways, David gets immunity and Gail gets to eat.
Elimination Challenge: Burgoo, hoecakes, mutton, oh my!
After the Quickfire, Padma informs the chefs that they’re going to Maker’s Mark, which everyone freaks out about because bourbon. On the way to Loretto, Kentucky girl Sara brags about her piece in Garden & Gun (who wouldn’t?) and Eddie looks stressed out, which is a harbinger of things to come. Once at Maker’s, Rob Samuels leads them on a tour, where they get to hand dip bottles off the line, not at the dipping station at the gift shop like the rest of us plebeians.
After the tour, they meet Newman Miller, Executive Chef of Star Hill Provisions and Chef-In-Residence at Maker’s Mark, who treats them to a feast of Kentucky’s most iconic dishes: burgoo, catfish, mutton, benedictine spread, frog legs, banana croquettes, spoonbread, soup beans, hoecakes, etc. Just as everyone is getting full and happy off the food and booze, here comes Padma with a butcher’s block. Party’s over, y’all!
If you didn’t see this coming, the Elimination Challenge is for the chefs to put their own spin on Kentucky classics. The 14 chefs are divided into teams of two, with each responsible for a dish for a family-style meal for 48 guests. Each team gets $1,500 to spend on ingredients and two and a half hours to prep and cook. The chef with the best dish from the winning team gets $10,000, while the chef with the worst dish from the losing team goes home.
Naturally, Kentucky girl Sara is feeling some pressure because if she can’t get Kentucky dishes right, that would be totally embarrassing; unfortunately, that anxiety causes her to come off as super cocky, prompting Nini to get a little snippy. I’m rooting for Sara, but listening to her go on and on about how she could nail each dish was pretty annoying. You go, Nini.
At Whole Foods, the drama begins. Eddie spends $500 on lamb instead of the $250 the team budgeted for it, which forces the rest of the Black Team to sacrifice ingredients for their dishes to come out under $1,500. By the time they get it sorted out, there are multiple carts full of discarded items. As Kelsey says, shoutout to the people who have to restock all that.
Back at Maker’s Mark, it is HOT outside, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take a little bit of glee from watching people not from the South deal with heat and humidity. Combine that with the Black Team having to make do with limited ingredients (THANKS, EDDIE) and you’ve got a cranky bunch. Brian struggles to figure out how to operate a pressure cooker or a food processor, which I’d argue that, as a chef, he should probably know how to do. Not only does Natalie not have enough lemons to make a good lemon curd pie (THANKS EDDIE), the heat has melted it into a gross, pudding-like blob.
While the chefs scramble to finish, Padma, Tom, the judges, and guests relax on the lawn at Maker’s Mark. The Black Team brings their food out first and the judges seem to like Eddie’s lamb, which Tom notes is the only thing that was properly seasoned. Probably because he spent so much on it the other chefs couldn’t afford seasonings? Justin hoecakes are a hit, as is Eric’s banana desert, which Greg Davis, the random Maker’s Mark Ambassador at the tables, literally giggled over. (Correction: I’ve since learned that Davis is the former master distiller at Maker’s, but now works at Jim Beam, so he’s not just a random Maker’s Ambassador. Cheers, Greg!) Meanwhile, Pablo’s burgoo was greasy, Brandon’s chicken and dumplings were “an atrocity,” and Natalie’s lemon curd pie was bland. THANKS EDDIE.
It’s immediately clear that the Red Team’s going to win. Tom says Nini’s New Orleans inspired spoonbread with shrimp étouffée sauce “should be a new Kentucky thing” and writer and bourbon critic Fred Minnick says Sara’s burnt cabbage with soup beans and country ham chow “tastes like Kentucky to me.” Well done, Sara. When random Maker’s Mark Ambassador Greg finds out Sara is from Paducah, he exclaims, “No wonder I liked it so much!” International food and travel editor Nilou Motamed said David’s lamb with black BBQ sauce tasted like a “bourbon on a plate,” which I believe is a good thing.
Anyways, the Red Team wins and the Black Team loses, which sends Eddie into a spiral of shame. He admits to the judges that he spent too much on his lamb, forcing everyone to sacrifice on their dishes. Because the judges liked his lamb so much, he’s safe. Natalie, last week’s winner, is going home for her bland lemon curd blob. From winner to loser in just one week! This is a harsh world, this Top Chef.
Nini ends up winning the $10,000 for her spoonbread étouffée. Sorry, Kentucky girl Sara. At least you’ve got that Garden & Gun writeup.
My Old Kentucky Home Takes
— Once again, the Bluegrass State looks beautiful on camera, Maker’s Mark especially. I’ve always joked that, of all the distilleries, Maker’s feels most like Bourbon Disneyland, and one of the chefs, Michelle, agrees, saying as they walk onto the grounds, “It smells like malt and yeast and sweet corn. It feels like we’re in a bourbon fairytale.”
— Speaking of Michelle, did you catch her saying her grandmother was a shaman for the most violent tribe in Mexico? That revelation came out while the chefs were planting vegetables on the plots of land Tom assigned to them outside their mansion. Nobody mess with Michelle.
— Speaking of that mansion, shoutout to BlueKel on Twitter for finding it on Zillow. The six-bed, ten-bath, 20,000-square foot house is nestled on 21 acres in Prospect and is called “The Avish” (you know a house is fancy if it has its own name). In April, it sold for $2.7 million. I wonder what the owners could get for it now that it’s being featured on Top Chef.
Next week: Christmas at the mansion featuring Eric Ripert! Nini says she’s gonna murder someone. Oh, how fun!
Alright people. Let’s start at the beginning. (Little joke you’ll understand when you watch the movie).
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the latest Spider-Man film to come out from Sony Pictures. This time, however, it’s an animated film focusing on Miles Morales instead of the usual Peter Parker. Don’t worry though – Peter is here too, along with a few other variations of Spider-Man from across the multiverse. But the question on everybody’s mind is, is it any good? Short answer: It’s absolutely amazing. For the long answer, let’s dive in to this.
First things first: This movie is beautiful. The art direction takes the comic book origins of the character and runs with it. Sound effects are visually represented on screen with impact wording (Thwip! Pow!), characters’ thoughts are shown in thought bubbles or text boxes, and the entire film’s texture makes it look exactly like a comic book. On top of that, the animators make sure the art styles for the various Spider-heroes are unique to their original realities. Spider-Ham, for instance, looks like a classic Looney Tunes-era cartoon character while Peni Parker looks like she was taken straight out of an anime. Spider-Man Noir, besides always being monochromatic, seems to have harsh lighting regardless of the situation, because the deep shadows of a Film Noir are infused into his very character. All of this is layered on top of a brilliantly-designed world filled with colorful neon signs and stylized graffiti.
Now, let’s talk about some of the characters. Miles Morales is a fantastic hero to base the movie around. After some defining events for him early in the movie (trying to keep this spoiler-free) he goes on a journey to figure out who he is. Along the way, he finds others to help guide him in the form of the myriad Spider-Heroes in the film. His character carries a lot of the emotional weight in the film and Shameik Moore does an amazing job bringing that emotion to the screen with his vocal performance. Also, I’m not sure if they did facial captures for the actors or not, but the animation of the expressions is spot-on for the entire film.
All of the casting is brilliant. John Mulaney as Spider-Ham is particularly inspired. His comedic style works wonders with a character who is basically Porky Pig in a Spider-Man costume. I am not going to lie, I was worried when Nicolas Cage was cast as Spider-Man Noir. I love this character and was worried that we might get one of the weirder Cage turns, but instead we got a charming, while still a little dark, performance that characterized the 1930s era crime-fighter perfectly. Kimiko Glenn brings a high-energy charm to Peni Parker which makes her anime-inspired Spider-Mech suit feel like a perfect fit for her. Each character’s visual style is accompanied by a matching soundtrack that is unique to them. It’s a cool thing for a movie with an already incredible soundtrack.
Mahershala Ali brings his gravitas to Aaron Davis, Miles’ uncle whose emotional conflict leads to one of the defining moments of Into The Spider-Verse. Hailee Steinfeld brings a bit of punk rock and a lot of heart to her Gwen Stacy performance. As one of the lead Spider-Heroes, she carries as much weight as Peter Parker in Spider-Verse, and does so with style and grace.
Now, let’s talk about Peter Parker. Jake Johnson plays the beloved wall-crawler in a surprising turn that places him in a different light. This isn’t the same happy-go-lucky webhead we’ve known across 8 movies and 58 years of comics. He is older, if not wiser, and has struggled to be heroic in the face of new challenges. His own self-doubt mirrors Miles’ and the character arcs they both go through lead them to be better people, and ultimately better heroes. Peter might not be the lead in this movie, but this still might be the best version of Peter Parker to ever hit the screen.
At it’s heart, that’s what this movie focuses on: The relationships between its characters. There might not be a better example of this than The Kingpin. As the villain in a Marvel superhero movie, Kingpin wasn’t guaranteed to be memorable, or have a motivation that makes sense. It would have been easy to give him a standard “take over the world” goal, letting the spectacle carry the viewer away. But the filmmakers didn’t go that route. Kingpin’s goals are, despite the process it takes to achieve them, relatively simple. They are personal and emotional and based on failings shared by the movie’s heroes. It adds emotional heft to the final showdown, which, despite taking place in one of the coolest and most inventive action set pieces I have seen in a movie to date, has narrow, simple, and very personal stakes for both Miles and the Kingpin. Those stakes help balance the climactic battle far better than most other superhero films. Yes, the world and multiverse is at stake, but the viewer stays focused on Miles’ family and what the outcome will mean for them. It grounds the movie with a sense of emotional realism.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Stan Lee cameo in the movie is really gold. There is also a nice tribute to him in the credits, but the scene itself is absolutely perfect. It’s funny but poignant aside about what it means to be a hero, and especially to be Spider-Man. Stan Lee always had a soft spot for Spider-Man and it shows here.
If I had to say one thing bad about the movie, and that’s a tough thing to do, I would say they kind of rush through the origin stories for three of the Spider-Heroes, but, honestly, it doesn’t matter. By that point in the movie, you know the Spider-Man origin story and can recite it with them. These aren’t immensely different characters than what we have seen, but that is kind of the point. As a hero, Spider-Man is an inspiration because he is the best parts of who we are. It doesn’t matter who is under the mask, because it could be anybody. It could be us if we are brave enough to take that “leap of faith,” and this might be the first Spider-Man movie to ever truly capture that. As someone who enjoys watching fun, visually unique films, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is breathtaking in its design, with a strong narrative and emotional backbone to support the stylized visuals. As someone who grew up reading Spider-Man comics, this is the best version of one of the greatest comic characters of all time. If you are even a little bit interested in this movie, go see it. I promise you it’s worth it.
10/10 Perfectly Spider-Man
If you liked Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse or didn’t or just wanted to talk about all those easter eggs in it, hit me up on twitter @DanielDunston