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When I was a senior in high school I bought an iMac and a video camera and started filming my life for the next couple of years. I took my camera everywhere. I brought it when my friends and I would drive aimlessly around town staving off boredom. I brought it to school. I brought it on vacations. I brought it with me when I went to college. Literally everywhere. I would edit the footage and make home videos to give to friends and family. I’m glad  I did all that because I documented some of the best years of my life. 

My girlfriend saw some of my DVDs in my movie collection and begged me to show them to her. I popped one in and got to relive the last few months of high school when I was suffering from senioritis and filming Jackass-inspired stunts on campus instead of going to class. I got to relive my epic trip to Yosemite with twenty-something friends and remembered how grueling the hike to Half Dome was and how relaxing lounging riverside was. 

The memories came flooding back.  I saw friends that I’m still in touch with, some that I’ve lost contact with, and a few that are no longer with us. It was good to see them again. It’s a good thing I was nerdy enough to film my life for a few years. So many good times with good people caught on tape, preserved for as long as I have a working DVD player.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The First Time I Snuck Into a Movie

I used to be a child actor. My best job was a play at Berkeley Repertory Theatre when I was fourteen. Child labor laws are a bit tricky in the business, so I was double cast with another actor. That means we took turns playing the same role so we weren’t working fulltime and could still go to school and stuff. I was double cast with a kid named Eli Marienthal. He had solid career. He was in a bunch of movies and TV shows. You might not know his name, but you’ve seen him before. Anyway, we had a couple weeks of rehearsals together and one time we got out early and had the whole afternoon to spend in Berkeley before our moms came to pick us up. We decided to go to the movies and so we did.

There’s no good way of setting up this story so I will just say what fucking happened. We bought tickets to The Iron Giant because it was Rated PG and snuck into American Pie because it was Rated R and we wanted to see it. We were teenagers and teenagers are supposed to rebel. That was the first time I snuck into a movie. I felt like a badass. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized how cool that situation actually was. I bought a ticket to a movie so I could sneak into another movie with a friend who was in both movies. Yessiree, Eli Marienthal was the voice of Hogarth Hughes, the animated protagonist in The Iron Giant, and he also played Stifler’s little brother in American Pie. It’s not as exciting as seeing Jim Carrey movies with Jim Carrey, but it’s still pretty cool. I’ll take it. It’s also kind of funny that people used to sneak into movies. Now we just download them.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Vertical Filming

Vertical filming is when you record a video on your smartphone without first rotating it 90 degrees. The end result is a tall and narrow video that doesn’t look natural. We see in landscape mode, not portrait mode. Movies and TV shows are often shot in widescreen. That’s what your eye wants to see. So the next time your friend does a drunken dance, flip your phone 90 degrees and record her shenanigans horizontally. You’ll notice you get a lot more hits on YouTube and more shares on Facebook. Film horizontally and save the world.

Critically Rated at 8/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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42 (film)

42 is a 2013 biopic about Jackie Robinson. It was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, and it stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. The film focuses primarily on Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The film starts with Branch Rickey, the President and GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers, making the bold decision to bring a black player to the major leagues. He only has to find the right one, someone with talent, skill, and the ability to take abuse without fighting back. He finds what he’s looking for in a young player named Jackie Robinson.

Jackie must endure racism and prejudice from his own teammates, other teams, managers, fans, and the media on his path to breaking the color barrier. He experiences things what would make anybody break but he handles it all with grace and class, keeping his mouth shut and letting his bat do the talking. And all the way he inspires people. He changes people. He changes the world. And he does it playing baseball.

Chadwick Boseman does a serviceable job playing the legendary Jackie Robinson. He doesn’t stand out but he doesn’t take anything away. I couldn’t name an actor that could do it better off the top of my head, but nothing about his portrayal really grips you. Harrison Ford is a scene-stealer as always. He growls and chews his way through his lines. Alan Tudyk’s brief appearance as Ben Chapman, the racist manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, also deserves recognition.

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           42 is not a perfect film. It’s not a hundred percent accurate and they take some liberties in telling the story. That’s to be expected. It’s a Hollywood biopic, not a documentary. Jackie disappears during a few parts of the movie and it becomes The Branch Rickey Story far too often. Yeah, Branch Rickey played a huge part in racial integration but I wanted to see a movie about Jackie Robinson, not another flick about a rich white guy. There’s also an unnecessary scene involving homoerotic showering that left me scratching my head. Jackie’s teammate seems way too interested in seeing Jackie naked. Like way too interested. I also wish that they showed more things from Jackie’s career like other black players entering the game and when he was finally tenured enough to be able to fight back.

It’s still a good movie. I would recommend it. The good outweighs the bad and it’s important to recognize and honor Jackie Robinson. The movie depicts him in a positive light and you’ll respect him more after you watch it. But this film only gives you a glimpse of his life and he did a lot of great things that aren’t included in the two-hour running time. I want more. I demand a sequel.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Post-Credits Scene

A post-credits scene is a bonus scene that pops up after the film credits roll. Most of the time it’s just a promotion for a potential sequel, but occasionally it adds some merit to the plotline of the film. It seems like a new gimmick made to establish the Marvel Universe these days, but post-credits scenes have been a part of Hollywood for decades now. Ferris Bueller told you that the movie was over and that it’s time to go home. Superman promised that Superman would return in Superman II. Post-credits scenes used to mean something and they get you revved up for a potential sequel. Now you wait for fifteen minutes to see the Avengers eating shawarma. Times have changed. But the post-credits scene is going to stick around for awhile. You better get used to it.

Critically Rated at 11/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Pretending That You’ve Seen A Movie You Haven’t Seen

People are habitual liars. We lie all the time. We lie about important things and we lie about unimportant things. We lie just to lie. We even lie about the movies we’ve seen and the books we’ve read. Pretending that you’ve seen a movie you haven’t seen is one of the most common lies told. You’ll be at a party and everyone is talking about the new George Clooney flick that you haven’t seen or heard about, but you don’t want to feel left out. You join the conversation even though you have no idea what to say, so you just stammer out a bunch of bullshit about how you like the dialog and the chemistry between the actors. You’ll feel slightly ashamed that you’re lying about something so trivial, but not enough to prevent you from lying. Movies are a shared experience, they are a common bond, they connect people. People lie about seeing a movie because they just want to feel involved.

Critically Rated at 9/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Filming

So production is currently underway for the Critically Rated movie. What an exciting time to be alive. I can’t give you too many details, but it’s basically the story of a guy trying to get weed on his day off and it’s based on the hero’s journey. You know, when the hero goes out into the world and is presented with a quest and has to overcome three trials while dealing with archetypical characters like the guide, the mentor, the villain, and the princess. Codirector/Producer/Cinematographer Leonard Cohen and I are only a few weeks into production and there’s still a lot of work left to be done, but I feel confident that the movie that’s been in my head for years will finally make the transition to the screen.

Filming is hard. It’s so damn time consuming. You have to find a day when everyone can film. You have to decide where and when you’re going to film. You have to stage a scene and film it multiple times from multiple angles. You’re lucky to get a minute of usable footage from a few hours of filming. You have to worry about lighting, sound, the actors’ performances, and that’s the easy part. Eventually you have to edit the film to make it flow, and add music to enhance the emotion… that turns raw footage into a film. And even then you see things that you don’t like and think of things that you need to add. And that’s when you do reshoots and recut the movie to make it more cohesive. My film takes place in one day, but it will take more than two months to complete filming it, and then another couple of weeks to edit it. I can only hope that there are no glaring continuity errors. It’s hard work, but hopefully it will pay off in the end and I can put a shiny golden statue on my mantle.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Keeping 3D Glasses

Movies are an escape, and that’s why you will occasionally pay a bunch of money to watch a blockbuster in IMAX 3D. You want to immerse yourself in a fantasy, and 3D films help to do that. You’re supposed to return the 3D glasses after the movie ends, but that doesn’t always happen. Maybe you forgot to return them or maybe you wanted a souvenir. Either way, I’ve noticed that a lot of people end up keeping 3D glasses and I don’t know why. I have about 4 pairs of 3D glasses in my room. I have IMAX 3D glasses, I have Real3D glasses, I even have the classic one with the red and blue lenses that you grew up with. And all of those glasses are useless to me because they aren’t compatible with anything in my apartment. They just sit there gathering dust. I’m never going to use them for anything. The only place where I can use them is at the cinema, and I wouldn’t bring them because they will just give me a new pair of 3D glasses (which I will also take home). Keeping 3D glasses might be a sign of a kleptomaniacal hoarder, but I’m ok with who I am. And they’re not getting their 3D glasses back.

Critically Rated at 9/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Spoilers

You’re looking forward to that new TV episode or blockbuster sequel to your favorite movie, you’re so excited and the anticipation is through the roof… and then you go on Facebook and see half a dozen spoilers and everything is seemingly ruined. Fucking spoilers. The weird thing is that people love spoilers almost as much as they hate them. They want to know that Harrison Ford is in the new Star Wars movie but they don’t want to know what he does. Spoilers are inevitable. As soon as someone sees something they want to talk about it, it doesn’t matter who is listening. The Internet makes it even easier to make people listen to what they don’t want to hear. I didn’t mean to tell you that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time, it just slipped out. Get over it. It doesn’t matter what happens, it only matters how it happened. A good spoiler only gets you more excited if you want to see it. Everyone knew the Titanic was going to sink but they still saw it anyway. It’s the journey, the experience that makes it interesting. That’s what counts, not that Keyser Söze and Kevin Spacey were the same fucking guy.

Critically Rated at 11/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Listening to Stupid People Talking About Movies

The other day I heard two old ladies talking about movies. One lady was telling the other about how she wanted to go see Django Unchained. But she didn’t know what it was called or who directed it: “I want to see that new cowboy movie from that guy who directed that ‘Basterd’ movie. Dee-jenga something.” I wanted to slap her in the fucking face. How can anyone talk about Tarantino films without knowing his name? You can’t talk about a movie if you don’t know what it’s called, who directed it, or the actors in it. You can’t talk about something that you know nothing about. You shouldn’t share your opinions if you don’t know anything. You should probably just shut the fuck up.

Critically Rated at 3/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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TV Shows are Better than Movies

Movies used to be the premier form of Hollywood entertainment. They were the pinnacle. They had the best actors, the best directors, the best stories, and the best effects. But then HBO started making their own shows. They had the budget to hire quality actors to portray quality characters. Characters are the most important part of storytelling. If you don’t care about the character, then you don’t care about what happens to them. And a TV series allows a character to get developed over multiple episodes and seasons. You get to know their personality, their quirks, their pet peeves, and you feel like you truly know them.

AMC has a lot of amazing character based dramas, like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, with interesting characters and intriguing storylines. The Walking Dead not only has great characters but also feels like a zombie movie that never ends. And it has more graphic and creative zombie deaths than anything in the movies. There are shows like True Blood that are extremely sexual and violent and Spartacus (which makes True Blood seem like a family show). The quality writing on television is extended to Cartoon Network. Even the worst season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is better than anything the prequel trilogy has to offer.

In the old days, any actor could be on TV but only a few actors could transition to the big screen and be a box office draw. Now movie stars want to be on television. The Simpsons and Scrubs are famous for their celebrity cameos and guest roles. Former Hollywood heavyweights like Keifer Sutherland got a career boost by turning to TV. Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, and Sean Bean put aside film opportunities to star in HBO shows. Kevin Spacey, Christian Slater, William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Kathy Bates, Zooey Deschanel, Danny DeVito, Christina Ricci, Laura Linney, Don Cheadle, and Glenn Close have all chosen television over film. Who needs to go to the theater with that kind of star power available on a weekly basis?

With HBO hits like The Sopranos and Sex in the City, other networks started paying more attention to quality programming. Premium cable channels like Starz and Showtime stepped up their game. Basic cable networks like FX and AMC had to keep up and they did. And the major networks took note and started taking more risks. We get shows as diverse as Lost and Community and everybody wins. The production quality and star power of television shows is only going to increase. It’s a good time to be a couch potato with a Netflix subscription.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Advertisements Before Movie Trailers

If you’re a movie buff and spend as much time online as I do, you might have noticed a growing trend with websites putting advertisements before movie trailers. A movie trailer is basically a glorified commercial for film. It’s offering glimpses of the best parts so that you hopefully will pay money to watch the whole thing. So advertisements before movie trailers are essentially just commercials for commercials. This is capitalism at its best.

Critically Rated at 6/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Watching Movies on TV

Most people like movies. It’s pretty cool to sit on your ass and be transported to a different world and to live vicariously through the people on the screen. The best way to watch a movie is to go to the movie theater. Some people prefer watching a movie at home on Blu-ray/DVD or stream it from Netflix or Hulu. Some people rely on premium movie channels like HBO. HBO is ok because they don’t cut out anything or have commercials. For the most part, watching movies on TV is the worst way to go. You should avoid movies on basic cable channels. A movie’s pacing is important, and it gets destroyed with the constant commercial breaks. Movies need momentum, and each time Andy Dufresne does something uplifting and it cuts to some bitch pitching dog food you can’t care about the character as much. Sometimes they have to cut out violent scenes and vulgar dialog. They replace cool lines, no matter how essential to the movie it is. If John McClane doesn’t say “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker,” then you aren’t watching Die Hard.

Critically Rated at 4/17

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The Avengers

It’s very refreshing to go to the movies and pay a shit ton of money and know that you are going to be entertained. Very few films come with that kind of guarantee. The Avengers is one of those movies. It has everything you want in a summer blockbuster: a great cast, a great director, great characters, great special effects, and great story. Joss Whedon knows how to direct large ensemble casts, and every character gets adequate screen time and at least one memorable moment. The Avengers kicks off the summer blockbuster season, and it’s going to be a tough act to follow. The world is in trouble and the Avengers must assemble, and it takes a while, but they learn to overcome their differences and become a team (and a family), and save they New York City and the world.

There is a huge cast. Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson all show up. And they all get their moment to shine. There is no lead, but Robert Downey, Jr. wants you to think it’s him. Quick props to Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson. He has no powers, but he was no doubt a hero. He inspired the Avengers to become the Avengers, with a little manipulation from Nick Fury.

It might be helpful to first watch Iron Man, Iron Man 2, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger but it’s not necessary. I never saw Captain America, and I don’t feel like I had to. I understood his role and position on the team, and each Avenger gets ample screen time to establish or reestablish characters. Hawkeye and the Black Widow each get a good introduction scene; you learn their personalities, their capabilities and get a sense of who they are.

Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America all have dramatic entrances. You know the real heroes have arrived when they show up. The first half hour to 45 minutes kind of drags, but it’s important for the plot and it’s never really boring. As soon as the Helicarrier gets attacked and Banner transforms into the Hulk, the movie kicks into overdrive and never gives up. The action is intense and overwhelming. It’s sensory overload like Transformers, but unlike Transformers you are aware of what’s happening. You know who the villains are, who the heroes are, and what’s at stake.

Some of the funniest moments happen in the midst of battle. The Hulk in particular had some great moments (throwing the ejected pilot, sucker punching Thor, beating the shit out of Loki). Mark Ruffalo became the best Hulk with the shortest amount of screen time. BTW, Lou Ferrigno voiced the Hulk, a little nerd knowledge for you. Each hero has their share of quips though. It’s very reminiscent of comics: some spectacular display of violence followed by a witty remark.

Comic book fans will jizz in their pants. There are so many hidden Marvel moments to get excited about. Everyone loves a good Stan Lee cameo, but there are so many references to the Marvel Universe that your geeky head will explode. There is too much to take in, and you have to see it multiple times and talk about it to people nerdier than you are just to calm down a little. It makes you feel like a little kid, asking who that was, or what this was about. It’s rare to be excited about a movie these days. Don’t take it for granted.

I saw it in 3D. I was a little skeptical, because most films shot in 2D that get converted to 3D look terrible. The 3D is shoddy and the characters look like cardboard cutouts. A simple test is to take off your 3D glasses: blurry means that it is 3D, unblurred and in-focus means you wasted your money. This movie is actually 3D, and it’s worth paying a few extra bucks for the full experience. The cinematography alone is impressive, so seeing it in 2D is not missing out on much. Everybody wins. There are some great shots in the NYC battle. There’s a rapid shot where the camera is looking through the shattered rear window of a cab. Another great shot shows Captain America’s reflection in an overturned motorcycle’s mirror.

So this movie has already been ridiculously hyped. It has made over $207 million in its first 3 days in the US. It’s made over $1.008 billion. It’s already the #11 movie of all time. It wont be Avatar status, but it’s going to be in the top ten for sure. This isn’t the best movie of all time. But it will be a lot of people’s favorite movie. And you can’t fault them for that. This movie is a great blockbuster. There are a lot of great characters, funny moments, and jaw-dropping special effects. And it has heart.

Joss Whedon compares the Avengers to a family. They don’t always get along. They fight and bicker and argue with each other. But they come together when the need to. They work together and they save New York City. And saving New York City is always good.

This movie appeals to everyone. I saw it with three lesbians and an old man. We all had a blast. This is an awesome movie and I can’t wait to see it again. It is one of those movies that you geek out over and you do your best Iron Man and Hulk impressions to try and recreate the magic. Just see it already. Don’t be the only one left out.

Critically Rated at 15.5/17

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