“Game of Thrones” Season Seven Finale: A Defense of Tyrion’s Plan

By Josiah Wampfler


Season Seven of Game of Thrones came to an end this Sunday with the season finale of the penultimate season: “The Dragon and the Wolf.” It ended a season that has been divisive, worrying, but nevertheless thrilling. So much has happened this season as the show moved from plot point to plot point at a break-neck speed uncharacteristic of the show up until this point. It is this that has caused many to question the writers’ decisions and to worry about their ability to give fans a fitting and satisfying ending next season. And though I was in that camp, worried about the future of the series, this season finale restored my hope for the final season. “The Dragon and the Wolf” managed to not only be one of the best season finales of the entire series, but it actually ended up fixing some of the problems I had with the last couple episodes by burrowing down into what Game of Thrones is all about: Characters.

If you paid any attention to the online chatter surrounding the show, the biggest problem fans had with episodes five and six was Tyrion’s plan. In short, Tyrion suggested that Jon Snow and his merry band of misfits should travel north beyond The Wall to capture a wight. They would then request a meeting with Cersei to show her that the threat of the White Walkers is real and the hope was that Cersei would then agree that they needed to call a truce and join together to defeat the Army of the Dead.

The issue with the plan I will not debate and thought from the beginning was a major issue for the show was the execution of the plan. The show went for fan service and drama over believable character motivation and logic. A plot point they obviously needed to hit was the death of Viserion and his resurrection as a Wight Dragon. But they went about it in the most convoluted and silly way. The show broke credulity with the timeline (there is no way Deaenerys could recieve a raven and fly hundreds of miles north in the amount of time she did), it put characters in needless danger yet almost all got out far too easily, and they made several characters (*cough* Jon *cough*) make horribly stupid decisions just to increase the drama of the episode. It was manufactured and it was Game of Thrones at its worst, this I will not debate.

What I will debate is those contending that Tyrion’s plan was poor writing on the part of the show runners and the way it played out was unbelievable.

The criticism is that the plan is far too dumb to come from Tyrion. Over these last seven seasons, we have come to know Tyrion as a very smart man and a skilled tactician. We’ve seen him brilliantly defend King’s Landing in the Battle of the Blackwater and become Hand of the King to Daenerys due to his wits. Some are saying that it is ludicrous that Tyrion would believe that his sister would agree to a truce and help them fight the White Walkers. He knows that she is a backstabbing, duplicitous woman who will do anything to advance her and her family’s status and power at the expense of any others. He should then know that any kind of truce with her is not to be trusted and she likely wouldn’t even agree to one because she is far too stubborn.

Tyrion does know all of this. He even tells Daenerys in episode six that she is likely thinking of a trap she can lay for them. Yet, he proposes the plan anyway. Why?

The finale confirmed that our instincts about Cersei were correct. Though she initially seems to agree to a truce and pledges her forces to help fight the White Walkers, we later learn she was never planning on following through. She is planning to betray her word, just as we had thought she would do. So that means that the plan was doomed to begin with and, on face value, it seems like poor writing. Isn’t Tyrion far too smart to completely overlook this obvious possibility?

I don’t believe it is poor writing at all. I think that we as an audience have simply been reading it wrong this entire time.

Over the last two episodes, Tyrion has done a pretty good job in explaining the reasoning behind the plan. He knew that, if the war went on, Daenerys was more likely to succumb to her worst impulses and thousands of people would likely die in the process, including his brother and sister. Tyrion, at his core, really does want to make the world a better place. He truly wants peace and has always been striving toward that goal, even while waging war. And despite what his family has done to him, we see that he has a soft spot for them. Even Cersei. It is not a flaw in the show that Tyrion came up with a doomed plan. It is a flaw in Tyrion. This is one of those instances where we as an audience can only watch as a character makes a bad decision. The plan was always foolish to some degree, but it reveals a huge deal about Tyrion’s character, and that is the point.

Tyrion doesn’t fully account for the possibility that Cersei will betray him because he doesn’t truly believe she will. He refuses to believe that even she is truly evil. He refuses to believe that there is no good left in her. And he refuses to let her be killed because of her ego and stupidity. For all of his negativity throughout the show, Tyrion, at his core, is an optimist. And that can be a major flaw for him at times and it can make him vulnerable.

So, even though I was initially one of the haters saying that Tyrion’s plan was another example of the poor writing this season, I have since changed my tune. I reject the notion that the plan does not make sense with Tyrion’s character because I think, like Tyrion, we are not accounting for something. We have at times overestimated Tyrion. We have put him on a pedestal I don’t know if any character can truly live up to. He is smart, but he has flaws. His complex emotions surrounding his family are one of those flaws making him vulnerable. Rather than this being a stumbling block for the show this season, I think this has actually brought us back to what Game of Thrones does best: narrative flowing from character and revealing character in the process. If the show continues to follow that recipe into next season, we will have one hell of a final chapter.

Good Friday and Film: “Logan”

By Jacob Wampfler

*Spoilers for Logan below

I am a Christian. I am a pastor. I am also an avid lover of film. Since I was a child, movies have spoken to me in ways that no other medium can touch. I have often hesitated on this blog and on our podcast to reference my faith in relation to film. I would hate for my worldview to be a hindrance or stumbling block to others when it comes to the very sacred art of filmmaking. But there are times when my faith in Jesus and my love of film so perfectly eclipse one another that I simply cannot be silent. Last month, I saw a film called Logan. Today is Good Friday, a somber day of reflection and pain for Christ followers around the world. I’d like to take a reflective moment of my own and share with you how Logan helps me see Jesus.

From the outset, Logan is dripping with religious imagery. Themes of atonement, death, fatherhood, disease, exile, and suffering all populate one of the darkest superhero films ever made. In Logan, the Wolverine himself, we see a marred Christ figure. His enhanced skeleton and body are failing. His healing power is slowly disappearing. He drowns himself in booze every day and when he dons a pair of spectacles, he squints and we see the creases on his worn, aging face. Logan is an old, dying, broken man, and the film conveys his pain with gut-wrenching veracity. In Logan, we can see little parts of ourselves…and it hurts.

Logan stands as a Christ figure in the film mainly in relation to Laura, the young mutant known as X-23. She was created with Logan’s DNA – she is Logan’s biological daughter. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that only Logan can save Laura from those who hunt her. She and countless other children were only known as numbers, failed experiments; but Logan sees her as an innocent child. He knows that he will die in order that she might live. He makes the ultimate sacrifice for her, and before his death experiences a fleeting moment of happiness. Laura holds his hand as he lay dying against a tree. He says, “So, this is what it feels like,” and he breathes his last.

The hero dies. Perhaps the most troubling part of this film, for me, are the circumstances of Logan’s death. He dies with his body ripped apart, weeping for a life he never had, holding his daughter’s hand who he will never see grow up. He is buried in the woods where no one will ever visit his final resting place. A crude wooden cross is placed at the head of his grave, tipped on it’s side by Laura to resemble an “X”. Logan, the tormented and immortal mutant, was finally laid to rest. His pain is ended, and he will only be truly remembered by the children he saved.

Logan does something I don’t think I have ever seen in my life. Similar to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” that played over the first trailer for the film, Logan weaves together the suffering of both the savior and the saved. I found myself brutalized by the way the camera lingered on Logan’s brokenness. In agonizing detail, director James Mangold hits the viewer over and over again with images that make our hearts yearn for Logan to find happiness and reprieve from his suffering. In one image aptly noted by another reviewer, a cross sits in the shadows at the moment of the film when Logan seems happiest, “surrounded by keepsakes of a life he will never have….” Logan is the flawed savior for whom happiness and family were pieces of an ever-elusive dream. Through Laura, he experienced a glimpse of that which escaped him. Through saving her, he passed on life and hope to those who would have otherwise been captured and eventually killed, doomed to live lives exactly the way Logan had lived.


Amidst the bleak, dour narrative of Logan, there is a glimpse of hope for us that Logan saw in Laura. Logan experienced new life and resurrection in Laura, who carried a part of him with her. As his daughter, she was freed from the cycle of violence and slavery that continually plagued Logan’s life. Laura and the other children – refugees, experiments, and former slaves – were free to grow up and live in peace. I like to imagine that Laura would tell stories of the old, broken man who saved her life. And amidst tears, she would recount that because of him she was given a chance to be different, to preserve life rather than take it.

This is how Logan helps me see Jesus. A former professor of mine once said that we can see Jesus anywhere, if we only open our eyes to see him. I see the ancient narrative of Jesus and his passion in Logan, especially this Good Friday, because I realize my need to see the Gospel everywhere. I need to be reminded every day of my own brokenness and thirst for redemption. I need to be reminded every day of my propensity towards harming even (and especially) those who are closest to me. I need to be reminded every day that no one is too far gone to experience the love and sacrifice of a Savior. And I especially need to be reminded in the words of Logan “So, this is what it feels like” – love and hope are mine because of what was accomplished at the cross. Logan is a film for Good Friday and every day…and this film lover will be forever grateful for it’s beauty and truth.

“Moonlight” is the Most Obvious Choice For Best Picture in Years. Here’s Why:

By Josiah Wampfler

Moonlight is a masterpiece. It is a film about subject matter that is (unfortunately) quite unique in the current film landscape. It is a beautifully crafted film with music, cinematography, editing and performances that push the medium forward. And it also shares an interesting connection to Casablanca in that both are based on unproduced stage plays (In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue for Moonlight and Everybody Comes to Rick’s for Casablanca). Just like Casablanca has for years, Moonlight is a film that will inspire the next generation of filmmakers – and likely a much more diverse set of filmmakers at that. Plus, Casablanca was also considered the underdog going into Oscars night when it ended up winning both Best Director and Picture. Moonlight should do the same, not because of any comparison to the other films, but because it is the obvious choice. You only get a masterpiece like Moonlight maybe a couple times a decade. Casablanca was one of those films. Now is the time to give Moonlight the same recognition.

Many have already written “Why Moonlight Should Win Best Picture” articles. My personal hero, Mark Duplass, wrote a beautiful piece saying, “The film is important because it is a beautiful, sweet, open love letter to the core human values that connect us all.” He also wrote that it was the type of film he has been trying to make his entire life, a sentiment I share with him as Moonlight has personally inspired me in my pursuit of filmmaking.

Moonlight is a film that features almost an entirely black cast. Mahershala Ali, who plays Juan in the film, is also Muslim. And it is a film that tackles issues such as drug addiction, poverty and sexual identity in such empathetic and nuanced ways. This is not a film that we would normally see at the Oscars. In fact, it is a film that never usually would have been made at all. But, it was, and now it will be in front of millions of viewers because of its nominations and the profound importance of that should not be missed.

It is no secret that we currently have an administration in the White House that is scaring communities of color, Muslims and the LGBTQ community with its actions and words. Because of the rhetoric coming out of the oval office, the very existence of many of these people has become political. We have political debates over these labels and categories of human beings happening right now and Moonlight sits in a very interesting place among it all.

The one scene in Moonlight that has stuck with me months after first seeing it is the moment when our main character, the youngest Chiron (Alex Hibbard), asks his surrogate guardians, Juan and Teresa (Janelle Monae) what a “faggot” is. Juan’s response is not only something I’ve never seen from a drug dealer character in a film, it is profoundly empathetic and true. Juan simply states that a “faggot is something used to make gay people feel bad.”

What a simple, beautiful statement to a young boy struggling to figure out why people are screaming this word at him. And when Chiron asks Juan how he will know if he is gay, Juan says, “You don’t have to know right now, you feel me?”

With this one statement, Juan says so much. These labels that we put on people – gay, transgender, queer, faggot, Muslim, etc. – are not the essence of who people actually are. “You don’t have to know if you are gay right now,” says, to me, that these things are personal. No matter what the world says, these are private things. Whether that be your sexual identity, your religion, your gender or even your race, these things do not define you and what you do with these concepts is your private decision to make.

You don’t have to know if you are gay, because why should it matter to anyone else? It is your identity. No matter what the Mike Pence’s of the world want to say about gay or transgender people, their identity is a private matter and, in short, it is none of their god damn business. No matter what the Donald Trump’s of the world want to say about the Islamic faith, millions of Muslims around the world have made a private choice to follow the tenets of Islam peacefully. Their faith is their own and it is none of Trump’s damn business.

Moonlight is a film that is about identity and that is what I find so universal about it. Even if you are not gay, black, poor or have not experienced anything like the events contained within the film, the message of finding one’s identity is something I think we can all connect with. And as we sit with these characters that may be far different from ourselves and watch them as they chase their identity – something we all are also trying to do – we can empathize with them, we can feel their struggles and we can come to know the things that actually do bring us together as human beings. All of this other stuff, the labels we attach to people and the divisions they cause, mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. What means something is connecting to the humanity of others.

This is why Moonlight should win Best Picture. It is not only a technically impressive film, but an emotionally impressive one as well. It should win because it is masterpiece, it should win because of the importance of a win, and, most of all, Moonlight should win best picture because it brings the best out of us as viewers as we cry, love, smile and hurt with other human beings that may be far different from us. That is the power of cinema and it is what makes Moonlight such a powerful and deserving film.

Best Movie Experiences of 2016




I walked into Arrival with a purposely blank slate.  I had only seen the trailer for the film once, and I avoided reading reviews of the film as much as possible.  As with other films that have stunned and amazed me (i.e. Mad Max: Fury Road), this proved to be the ideal approach given the viewing experience that ensued when I saw Arrival for the very first time.

I watched this film at an upscale AMC theater in Leawood, Kansas (mere blocks away from the AMC national headquarters building).  I specifically chose to see Arrival in the Dolby Cinema format.  The partnership between AMC and Dolby Cinema has been rolling out around the country, and it provides a truly transcendent cinema experience unlike anything I have ever witnessed.  Dolby Cinema combines Dolby Vision projection with Dolby Atmos audio to create a combination of image and sound that rivals any of the best formats offered throughout the country (Marcus’ Ultrascreen and IMAX are the two other formats that come to mind).  Arrival is the best type of film to see in this new and exciting Dolby format.  A film with breathtaking visuals and a thunderous, pulsing score, this was one of the best viewing experiences in my admittedly young filmgoing life.  

A specific scene, wholly aided by the Dolby Cinema format, is when the viewer essentially makes “first contact” along with Amy Adams’ character in the film.  I stopped breathing, my mouth was agape, and I was gripping the armrests of my seat.  As I leaned forward slightly, I quickly glanced to my right and left.  Every single viewer in my row was doing the exact same thing as me.  Arrival is one of the very best films of this year, one of the best sci-fi films of the 2000’s, and Dolby Cinema was a fascinating way to make “first contact.”

Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Traffic was worse than I anticipated, the lines at the ticket kiosk were long, and it was raining outside.  I immediately thought about ditching this Hunt for the Wilderpeople showtime at the theater in favor of two other films I had wanted to see…but something told me “no.”  I stayed in line, tapping my foot.  I got to the kiosk, raced through various payment screens to get my ticket.  I ran to my theater and sat down in the aisle seat of a surprisingly packed showing (how did anyone else know about this movie?!).  I was damp from the rain and my own sweat and I was in a somewhat foul mood.  However, everything that had led up to this viewing experience melted away once this enchanting film began.

There was nothing special about the way this film was presented.  However, I was astonished that what made this film  such an engrossing cinema treat for me was the audience.  If you know me at all, you know that I generally loathe audiences.  The coughing, talking, munching, and glaring of cell phone screens drives me nuts.  If I had a choice I would almost always prefer to see films in an empty theater like a lonely, old millionaire who built a giant theater in his mansion just because he could.  Alas, I am not a millionaire nor an old man…so I view films with everyone else.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is, at it’s core, a laugh riot.  Taika Waititi, who also directed and stars in What We do in the Shadows, knows how to craft hilarity better than most current comedic filmmakers.  As such, Wilderpeople is a treasure-trove of gut-busting references to haiku poetry, terrible funeral sermons, and Lord of the Rings (among MANY other pop-culture touch-points).  The audience that I was honored to view this film with responded in-kind.  They laughed with uproar at all the right times and they sighed with sadness when the film evoked such a response.  One man, sitting behind me, sticks out in my memory.  His deep, belly laughter at each joke was delightful, and he had the audience right alongside him each time.  When I go to see a movie, I truly wish I could call these folks up to watch with me.  Thanks Hunt for the Wilderpeople audience from last spring.  You were GREAT!




One of my favorite movie experiences from 2016 was when I saw Moana for a second time. I saw it with my entire immediate family which automatically made it a better experience. Besides that though, I appreciated so much more of the movie the second time. The animation was so much more impressive and the songs were more inspirational. But, the most impressive thing about my second viewing was that the crowd, which was mostly children, was super well-behaved. There was basically no talking during the entire movie. Also, at the end of the movie one child said, “That was really good!” Those children were better behaved than some adult moviegoers.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


My second best movie experience came when I saw Rogue One for the second time. We saw it in IMAX and it was amazing. The first great thing we saw was a preview of the upcoming movie Dunkirk. This preview was incredible. It took up the entire IMAX screen and made me feel like I was within the clip it was depicting. The Rogue One experience was no less intense. Every scene was elevated. The battle scenes were so much more intense, But the best part of the entire experience was right at the end. This also happened after The Force Awakens. There was thunderous applause. This is the only franchise that I have ever experienced to always receive applause at the end. This sets Star Wars aside as a universally loved franchise that I am proud to support.  


Don’t Breathe


I don’t think my heart has ever raced as fast as that night when I was driving away from the theater. I had just seen the horror/thriller Don’t Breathe and was just recovering from the experience. It began when I decided to go to a late show of the film and found myself as the only one in the theater when the movie began. From the very beginning, I sensed  that Don’t Breathe was going to be a “no-holds-barred adrenaline-fueled thrill-ride” and I was not disappointed.

Watching Don’t Breathe alone in the large, dark theater was one of the most thrilling movie experiences in my entire life. It’s been said before, but the title is not a mistake. I actually had to take a deep breath at the end of the film because for much of the film I literally was not breathing. The film was brilliantly constructed, wonderfully acted and it was one hell of a ride. Miles away from the theater, my heart was still trying to calm itself down and even months away from that experience, I can still feel the thrill of that night.



It was election day. I got up, voted, went to the gym and then headed for the Twin Cities to see Moonlight. I walked into the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis and was immediately impressed by the ornate decorations, the fact I could get a beer and just how beautiful the theater was. But then the film started and none of that mattered anymore as I was completely sucked into the experience. My surroundings completely melted away as the beginning music started and I knew I was about to embark on a uniquely remarkable journey.

Seeing Moonlight on that day was a transcendent experience. Not only was the film incredible, it was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had at the cinema. As the credits began to roll, my eyes sufficiently full of tears and my heart so full of emotion, the spell finally subsided as I came out of the experience. The theater around me emerged out of the darkness. As I finally looked around as the credits continued, while others were leaving, myself and a man a couple of seats down from me sat, seemingly unable to move. The man, probably in his early 30s, was attempting to recollect himself as he wiped the tears from his eyes. He looked over at me, and I at him, and we nodded at each other in recognition of the experience we had just shared. It was a wonderful, simple human connection.

As I drove home that night, the sun setting behind me and one of the most beautifully pink skies ahead of me, I listened to the score and dwelled on the film and the experience. It was peaceful and it was perfect. And the enormous amount of peace, happiness and raw emotion I felt that day made what was to come that night even more difficult. It was a wonderful moment of tranquility before the inferno of craziness that came with the election that night.

Cinema Bros Top 5 Films of 2016 So Far…

Jake’s Top 5


5.   Zootopia

I was not excited about seeing this film at all.  In fact, I was incredulous when reviews started to pour in with nothing but praise for this movie about a world in which animals wear business suits and work desk jobs, like at the DMV.  I don’t know if there will be a movie all year that endears itself to me as much as Zootopia for all the reasons stated above.

 Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman) have a chemistry in this movie that blew me away.  They are funny, lovable, and even have scenes of downright heartbreaking dialogue as the mis-matched bunny and fox detective duo.  Rounded out by a stellar voice cast and highlighted by breathtaking animation, Zootopia will remain one of the best animated films and biggest surprises of 2016.

4.   10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane is an impressive film on numerous levels.  John Goodman delivers a career performance as the man-in-the-bunker, Howard.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr., Michelle and Emmett, do some serious work with this fantastic script as the only two other major characters on screen.  This is economical filmmaking at it’s finest.  It’s tight, claustrophobic, and never tips its hand until the final act in which all hell breaks loose.  As with other films on my top five, I can’t say much at all about the film without spoiling major plot developments.  Check it out and be prepared for your jaw to absolutely drop.

3.   The Nice Guys

Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) has delivered another high-light reel of hilarity with this buddy-cop style, 70’s era comedy about two misfits trying to earn a buck.  Through the lens of private detective work, Holland March and Jackson Healy (Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe) give the viewer a feast of comedic gold in both dialogue and action.  Bolstered by a strong performance from newcomer Angourie Rice, The Nice Guys is everything that I love about cinema.  I couldn’t even begin to describe the plot if I tried: something about an adult film star and a government cover-up and the United States auto industry?  You don’t need to know the details before seeing this film.  Watch it, laugh your ass off, and repeat.

2.   The Witch

I shudder to think on what Robert Eggers will bring to the screen after his debut film, The Witch.  Not only is The Witch a deeply disturbing film concerning the satanic arts, but it is also a near-masterpiece exercise in slow-burn horror that remains one of the most uniquely terrifying experiences I have ever viewed on screen.  The horror of this film comes from the unseen and the unknown.  This creates an atmosphere of dread and ramps up to a truly unsettling conclusion.

Eggers committed 100% to the authenticity and accuracy of the story he sought to tell.  Drawing from source material concerning the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century, Eggers spared no detail in this film.  Costume and set design, even dialogue were all carefully chosen to fit this time period.  The actors all deliver their lines in mesmerizing Old English for the entirety of the film (a factor that, I believe, led to a largely negative audience response).  Anya Taylor-Joy as the young Thomasin delivers a performance that will likely ensure her acting status for years to come, and the supporting cast rises to the occasion as well.  

The Witch is a deeply spiritual and religious experience as well.  By highlighting the pillars of Puritan and Reformed Christianity, it examines sexuality and femininity in an entirely new light.  The Witch is shocking, eerie, and truly horrifying which makes it an exercise in genre filmmaking of the highest order.

1.   The Hunt for the Wilderpeople

This New Zealand indie film is absolutely enchanting.  Directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok) and starring almost no one you’ve ever heard of – excluding Sam Neill – I enjoyed every second of this hilarious yet poignant story about Ricky, a young boy on his last strike before being sent to juvenile prison.  His final chance in the foster system resides in the New Zealand countryside with Bella and Hec, an older couple with no children of their own.  Ricky goes to live with his new family when a startling event out his control forces him and Hec to go on the run in the New Zealand bush.  A nation-wide manhunt ensues for the two fugitives who must rely on the “knack” and each other to survive.

I can’t begin to praise this film enough.  Waititi’s direction and eye for his native New Zealand’s landscapes create a beautiful atmosphere where the viewer feels as though they are transported into Ricky’s world.  Waititi also gives a short but supremely noteworthy cameo appearance in the film.  Julian Dennison (Ricky) logs an amazing performance and proves that he should be in every movie from now until forever, and both Sam Neill (Hec) and Rima Te Waita (Bella) give sincere and heartfelt portrayals of their respective characters.  

Cinematography, score, script, acting, and direction, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the real deal.  It reminds me of everything I loved about childhood favorites like The Sandlot, The Goonies, and Hook and I will look back on Wilderpeople with great fondness for the rest of my life.

Sam’s Top 5


5.   10 Cloverfield Lane

From the very beginning I knew that 10 Cloverfield Lane was going to be a breathtaking and intense thrill ride. This film does so much with a very limited cast and set as three cast members do what I have seen dozens of actors fail to do. Of all of the cast members John Goodman really became the centerpiece of the creeping terror that is 10 Coverfield Lane. He seems to morph into a new, more terrifying incarnation in each scene. You never really never know what his character will do next.

I actually did not know that this film was a sequel to Cloverfield until about a week before it came out, but it definitely has revitalized my interest in the franchise and I cannot wait to see what they can come up with next.    

4.   The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys was a welcomed surprise for me. I don’t see as many films as my two brothers usually and this is one I may not have seen on my own if not for the podcast. I am so glad that I did. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are hilarious together. Every scene between the two of them is comedy gold, and that is before adding Angourie Rice as Gosling’s daughter. Rice may be one of my picks for best child performance of the year. She took this already hilarious comedy to a new level.

This movie, besides its obvious comedic elements, also succeeds in other areas. Its story is simple yet captivating. It has quite a few twists that come unexpectedly. It also has an insane cold open that leaves you wondering what will happen next. One of my favorite parts of this film though, is its dedication to depicting the 1970s as intricately as possible. This comes out in many ways but most importantly in the amazingly chosen soundtrack. It is obvious that Shane Black put a lot of thought into this film, as he did with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. I am hoping we can see more from him in the future.

3.   Deadpool

My expectations going into Deadpool were as high as they could possibly be. I have played the Deadpool video game. I have read many Deadpool comic stories. My idea of what needed to be presented in the film adaptation was very specific. Every expectation was completely met. Ryan Reynolds was born to play Deadpool.

I cannot speak highly enough about comedic excellence of this movie. Every moment, from the hilarious opening sequence to the awkwardly animated closing credits, had me laughing out loud. The casting, besides Reynolds, was also impeccable. TJ Miller as Weasel was a high point in particular, especially in the scenes where he described how Deadpool’s face looked. All in all I received a ton of enjoyment out of the relatively small amount of money they spent on this wonderful film.

2.   Zootopia

I went into Zootopia with fairly low expectations. I figured it was just going to another anthropomorphic animal film. It was not. The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the animation was. The scene where Judy Hopps rides into the titular Zootopia is so breathtaking, You can see the time they put into every detail.

This movie gets much more right besides the animation. The voice talent is expertly cast. From Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde to Idris Elba as Chief Bogo, everyone voices their character perfectly. The plot is also surprisingly well thought out and it addresses many key social issues that our society is currently facing. All of this comes together to make an unexpectedly entertaining and poignant animated tale.

1.   Sing Street

I was introduced to Sing Street by Joe, who told me that it was from the same director as Once, which is a film that we both loved. I agreed and proceeded to have my mind blown. The first thing that impressed me was the acting chops of the young actors in this film, especially Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, who plays the main character and has never acted in anything before.

Acting is only a small part of what makes this movie amazing though. The soundtrack of this film is so 80’s and so epic. Both the songs by actual 80’s bands and those written specifically for the film are perfectly placed and make every minute of this film a unique experience. Probably my favorite part about this movie is the dynamic between the main character and his brother. They joke and laugh for much of the film but they also help each other through hard times, many times due to their shared love of music. As a brother that shares a love of something (Cinema, bro) with his brothers this part of the narrative really touched me and skyrocketed this film to my number one spot.


Joe’s Top 5


5.   The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys is funny as hell. Director Shane Black delivers gold in this hilarious, entertaining adventure. From the incredible cold opening to the end credits, The Nice Guys is surprising and fun. Black manages to craft great characters and an even better narratives that twists and turns quite unexpectedly throughout. And it feels like it is straight out of the 70s.

But the true key to the success of this film is its cast. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are the perfect pairing, and their chemistry as a comedic duo is demonstrable. Both men stretch their comedic range to its limit, delivering hilarity in nearly every scene they are in, but also capturing some rare moments of sentimentality. And these two are only bolstered by the performance of newcomer Angourie Rice as Gosling’s daughter. She is the latest child actor in recent years to blow me away with her performance as she perfectly anchors the film while going toe to toe with the comedy chops of Gosling and Crowe. Without her, this film is good, but with her it becomes a truly great film.

4.   Make Happy

I believe Bo Burnham is the George Carlin/Louis C.K. of my generation because he transcends the label of comic. He is a true artist in every sense of the word and this is only further solidified in Make Happy. His new Netflix comedy special is every bit as funny as his last, but he also manages to bring serious reflection into the mix that is both deeply moving and incredibly poignant.

Throughout a show featuring incredible songs about how country artists are fakes and straight white male privilege, Burnham not only makes you laugh but thoroughly entertains. The production of the show is brilliant as he uses lights and pyrotechnics to enhance the humor and the drama. And it is the drama that truly brings the show to the level of greatness.

Burnham’s jokes have always been a bit inside baseball, speaking to the problems that come with performing and being a comic. In Make Happy, he reflects on the complicated relationship he has with fans, linking this to the performance nature of social media today. You can sense there is a deep underlying pain behind his words as he works through his problems in a beautifully haunting final number. As only a true artist is able to do, Burnham shows that you can not only make an audience laugh their asses off but bring tears to their eyes, and he does it all within a one hour comedy special. Amazing.

3.   10 Cloverfield Lane

Dan Trachtenberg. That is a name barely anyone had heard before 2016. Now though, after his directorial debut in 10 Cloverfield Lane, he has become an extremely sought after talent. From the moment the credits flashed amid the loud chaos of a car crash, I knew this film was going to be special. The film is easily one of the best made thrillers I have ever seen, keeping me on the edge of my seat all the way to the fantastically crazy ending.

While Trachtenberg’s direction and eye were certainly a big part of what makes this film great, it is the cast that really sells it. John Goodman gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the possilby-crazy and menacing Howard. John Gallagher Jr. provides much needed comedic relief and innocence to the film. And Mary Elizabeth Winstead carries this entire film through the intense action as well as the quieter emotional parts. This cast truly feels real, which makes the threats to them even more terrifying.

2.   Sing Street

In these dark times of floods, war, Trump and Suicide Squad, along comes Sing Street, a film that is so audaciously positive and fun, I’m surprised I wasn’t annoyed by it. Directed by John Carney, the man who also brought us the wonderful Once, Sing Street is chocked full of incredible music and even better characters. In these characters, he really gets to the heart of what it is to be young and to dream wildly.

In this sweetly beautiful love story, Ferida Walsh-Peelo makes his film debut with a bang. He is an absolute revelation as Connor and carries the film through all of the wild fun. Connor’s relationship with his older brother Brendan, played by Jack Reynor, is both funny and deeply moving as both actors deliver incredible performances. And the rest of the cast are mostly unknown, like Carney did with Once, though this time he is able to bring brilliant production design and cinematography into the mix to craft a superbly stunning film.

1.   Lamb

Lamb is certainly one of the most daring films I have ever seen, tackling the extremely taboo subject matter with an angle that at times seems almost wrong. It challenges your expectations and forces you to put aside judgment so that you can be fully enveloped in the beautiful complexity of the film. In Lamb, you find that love and morality are not always clear cut concepts and to truly understand this film, you must be willing to accept uncomfortable conclusions.

Bolstering the daring narrative of the film, Ross Partridge and Oona Laurence give stellar performances as the unorthodox kindred spirits. The amount of depth these two bring to their characters is incredible and their chemistry is palpable. Plus, the film has a mesmerizing score paired with beautifully subtle cinematography.  These elements provide the beauty of the film that is so needed with such an uncomfortable subject matter.

AJ’s Top 5


5.   The Nice Guys

Writer/director Shane Black translates the quippy, fast-paced dialogue for which he’s been long since renowned into a 1970s setting without missing a beat. As violent as it is hysterical, The Nice Guys boasts terrific performances, a compelling crime narrative, and pitch-perfect comic timing.

4.   The Witch

A Puritan girl comes of age in this intensely atmospheric horror tale. The Witch‘s ending undoes a bit of the ambiguous magic the first two acts weave so effectively, but it’s not so crippling as to detract from the quality of the performances and unsettling vibe that Robert Eggers maintains from the first frame onward.

3.   Hail Caesar

The Coen Brothers simultaneously pay tribute to and highlight the flaws of Old Hollywood in this star-studded period farce. With their trademark offbeat style, the Coens mix together elements of moviemaking, socialism, religion, and existentialism into one quirky, often perplexing, and totally entertaining package.

2.   Captain America: Civil War

In terms of theme and cast of characters, Captain America: Civil War leads the Marvel Cinematic Universe into one of its most complex chapters and pulls it off with flying colors. More than just an entertaining display of superheroics and riveting action sequences, the film delivers on a compelling narrative about forgiveness and how “doing good” is far from a black-and-white concept.

1.   10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane is an incredibly tense and wicked thriller that constantly plays with your expectations. Boosted by a small but solid ensemble (featuring a revelation of a performance by John Goodman) and a mastery of claustrophobic geography, director Dan Trachtenberg succeeds in making his “side-quel” to 2008’s sci-fi thriller Cloverfield its own singular, creepy-as-hell experience.

Your Superman is Dead. Get Over it.

By Josiah Wampfler

“Truth. Justice. The American way.” These are the qualities that represent Superman to many people. Since 1938, the character has been known as the pinnacle of heroism and his name has been synonymous with hope and optimism in popular culture. But today, we have a different Superman. This Superman exists in a world not unlike our own, where cynicism is common and acts of heroism are not always met with praise. This Superman is a man who is not entirely sure what being a hero means or whether the world actually needs him to be one. And it is this Superman, according to critics like Devin Faraci at Birth.Movies.Death, that spells the end of an American icon. And it is Zach Snyder who killed him.

In his article, “Superman and the Damage Done: A Requiem for an American Icon,” Faraci claims that Snyder’s “ugly new interpretation” of the character in both Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice “devalues the simple heroism of Superman and turns the decent, graceful character into a mean, nasty force of brutish strength.”

This view has not been uncommon in the days since Batman v. Superman released. I have heard people say that the film “got the character of Superman wrong,” that the film “isn’t what superhero films are supposed to be” or that Snyder “deeply misunderstands” the character of Superman. The film has been ravaged by critics, and while many of the criticisms are valid – the film certainly has an array of problems – I find this particular criticism to be quite dubious. Zach Snyder does not “deeply misunderstand” the character of Superman. It is those that are saying this that “deeply misunderstand” Snyder’s vision for the character.

The complaints with this Superman began back when Man of Steel came out. Critics of the film decried this new Superman who was unsure if he should be a hero, caused massive destruction to the world in his fight with General Zod and executed Zod by snapping his neck. While Snyder having Clark let his father die is still inexcusable, everything else made sense. Superman’s reluctance to be a hero was an interesting dimension to a usually flat character, the massive destruction caused makes sense in a battle between two super-men and Superman had no choice but to kill Zod.

The same critics that leveled these complaints against Man of Steel are the ones saying that Zach Snyder has officially killed the character in Batman v. Superman. The great irony of it all is that Snyder gave critics exactly what they wanted: consequences. While Man of Steel seemed to overlook the destruction caused by Superman, Batman v. Superman dwells on that destruction and gives weight to that destruction. This is because the new film is mostly told from Batman’s perspective – easily the biggest critic of Superman.

Yes, this Superman is not the do-good Boy Scout that Christopher Reeves’ version was. Yes, we are compelled to mistrust the Man of Steel in this film. We don’t particularly like the character through most of the film because this is not a Superman film. It is a Batman film (hence why his name is first in the title).

Granted, the film does not always do the greatest job of keeping with Batman’s perspective and that is one of its many problems. But, one only needs to look a little closer and it is quite clear that this is the case. Man of Steel seems almost overly optimistic compared to the darkness in Batman v. Superman because Batman is an overly cynical character. This overly cynical Batman would seem pretty crazy if the Superman he wanted to kill was the same as Christopher Reeves’ Superman. We would hate Batman, and it is very important that we are sympathetic to Batman in this film.

The other aspect of Snyder’s Superman that critics get wrong is the overall themes he is working with. Devin Faraci writes in his article, “One of the larger themes of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is the idea that every act of heroism is a catalyst for something terrible in the world, a point of view that is not only a) insane but b) inherently anti-Superman.” He goes on to call this theme “intrinsically nihilistic.”

This is another example of how critics are fundamentally misreading the film. Again, Snyder’s themes sometimes get a bit muddled, but they are quite clear if only you look a little deeper.

The theme of the film is not that every heroic action will lead to something terrible, but that every heroic action could lead to unintended harm. The film is not saying Superman shouldn’t be a hero, it is saying that he should think more about the consequences his actions have on the world around him.

You can draw a direct correlation between the debate the film has over Superman and the debate we as a country have had over our foreign policy and specifically our drone program. When we call a drone strike, we may kill a terrorist leader, but there is also the chance of civilian casualties. Just as we must consider the effects of a drone strike, so too must Superman consider the effects of his actions. As another comic book company’s character said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Also, so what if this version of Superman is a bit nihilistic? Sometimes nihilistic, dark storytelling is more appealing because I think we like to wallow a bit in the darkness of life every once in a while. Sometimes these stories are just more interesting than the glossy, hopeful stories of past Superman films. This is probably why Batman is a much more popular and beloved character, despite him being far more cynical. Maybe, we all have a bit of nihilist in us.


Still, some critics proclaim that Batman v. Superman is not what superhero films are “supposed to be.” They say that superheroes are meant to be beacons of hope for us to look to; that superheroes are meant to inspire us.  They long for the days of Christopher Reeve, where seeing Superman on-screen was a way to escape the darkness of life.

While I certainly love the Marvel brand of superhero films that are bright and hopeful and Christopher Reeves’ Superman was the first great superhero film, I like that DC has decided to bring something different to the table now. They don’t want us to escape the darkness of life. They want us to really think about it.

The last line of Devin Faraci’s article states, “I feel bad for the youngest generation who has been handed a jar of granny’s peach tea instead of truth, justice and the American way.”

Maybe, Faraci, without even knowing it, just stated exactly what this film is trying to say. That, by flipping this American icon on his head, by making us question the man whose slogan is “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” Snyder is saying what a lot of younger people are feeling today: That the American dream we were taught would be there for us is no more…and in its place is a lonely jar of granny’s peach tea.



It’s 2016, So Where are All the Female Directors?

By Josiah Wampfler

In 1896, Alice Guy-Blache became the first female film director with the release of La Fee aux Choux. A pioneer of French cinema, she directed all the films released by the Gaumont Film Company until 1905 and is credited as one of the first filmmakers to produce narrative films. Her filmography includes over 1,000 films and she was the first woman to manage and own her own film studio.

One would think that if the industry had been inclusive as early as 1896, that today we would have a bevy of films directed, produced and written by women. One would expect that the number of women in behind-the-scenes roles in the industry would be at least about level with the number of men. Unfortunately, one would be very, very wrong.

Despite Blache’s accomplishments, she is rarely mentioned among the pioneers of cinema and I had personally never heard of her before writing this article. Like so many women from the early days of cinema, she has been lost to time while her male counterparts are celebrated.

Today, the representation of women in Hollywood is in some ways worse than at the beginning. The Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film recently released its 2015 Celluloid Ceiling Report that details the amount of women working in major behind-the-scenes roles in the industry. The report found that only 12 percent of the top 500 films in 2015 were directed by a woman. Of the top 250 films, only 9 percent had a female director and of the top 100 films, only 7 percent had a female director.

Last year was marginally better than 2014 when 7 percent of the top 250 films were directed by women, but that is clearly not enough. In fact, the 9 percent we saw in 2015 was the same number of female directors the industry had in 1998. In 18 years, the industry has not improved at all.

And it is not just female directors that are lacking. The report also found that of the top 250 films of 2015, only 15 percent of writers, 26 percent of producers, 21 percent of editors and 10 percent of cinematographers were female. All together, 81 percent of the behind-the-scenes roles on the top 250 films of 2015 were filled by men. Another number that is the same as it was in 1998.

It is painfully obvious that the industry has a problem. In the United States, 51 percent of the population is female, so why is one of our most influential industries dominated by male voices? Some may think that there just aren’t enough women pursuing a career in filmmaking, but that is simply not true.

Last year, MTV News reported that nearly half the student populations at USC and NYU – two major film schools – were women. The problem isn’t that women aren’t pursuing careers in film, it is that they aren’t getting jobs once they get out of school; a stark contrast from their male counterparts. After all, we live in a time where filmmakers like Colin Trevorrow make one independent film and are then handed the keys to the Jurassic Park franchise.

Huge changes need to be made in the film industry. It should not be more difficult to become a filmmaker just because you are a woman. That is completely ludicrous. But, unfortunately I cannot make these changes and they won’t come overnight. Pressure needs to be continually put on Hollywood to change its act. They need to see that people are fed up with sexism in the industry and they want change.

That is one of the reasons I am starting a series on our site called the “Female Directors Spotlight.” Every month, I will highlight one or two films directed by women that I think you should check out. The films will range from small independent films to large studio films. You may not even have known that some of these films were directed by women. I will be highlighting as many great films as possible and my hope is that more people will start to recognize the talent of these directors. This series will not end the horrible sexism in the film industry, but I hope that this article and the series will help to continue the much-needed discussion about the lack of gender diversity in the industry.

A Study on the Fate of Superhero Films

Superhero themes in television and film have been on a major upswing for quite a while now. What arguably started with the beginning of the X-men and Spider-man movies way back in 2000 and 2002 respectively, and was cemented by Iron Man in 2008, has now become a multi-billion dollar franchise for multiple companies. Marvel Studios, the biggest contender in the market, has made painstaking strides to link there television and movie properties into one ever expanding universe.

DC Entertainment, on the other hand, has decided to copy the main traits of one of their own creations, Bizarro. As Bizarro was known for his insane ability to always behave the opposite of Superman, so has DC made it their goal to make all of their major decisions as Bizarro versions of Marvel’s. Instead of a linked television and movie universe they have separate actors for each. Instead of solo superhero films leading up to a group film, the opposite. Besides this insane mimicry of one of their own villains they still remain a worthy opponent for Marvel in the superhero world.

No matter who is making these properties the simple fact remains that they are a cash cow that Hollywood can’t help but keep on milking. And why shouldn’t they? Well, according to the denizens of the internet, the superhero trend will soon meet it’s end at the hands of the worst villain of all: viewer disinterest.

Many articles have started popping up all over the internet claiming that silver screen superheros are not long for their digital world. Some writers cite drops in opening box office numbers. Others claim that original content will cease to exist. No matter the reasoning one thing is clear, many believe that superheros are not a lasting concept when it comes to digital media.

These theories seem to forget one very crucial example of the superhero industry’s longevity, the comic book industry itself. Somehow they push aside the fact that comic books have been around for over 70 years. And those years have not all been easy. They had to deal with early detractors, the dreaded comic book code, a period of near complete disinterest around the 1950s, and worst of all, the creation of Aquaman.


In all of these cases the industry stepped up and faced the challenge to keep their business afloat. They continued to write even though some thought they were writing filth. They found ways to make their product interesting even with the looming threat of being shut down by the comic code authority. They innovated and created new and entertaining properties to get through stages of disinterest. And they gave Aquaman a sweet spear for a hand.


One of the reasons for the industry’s continued success in the face of adversity can be found by looking at the human race itself. We have always had a fascination with super powered individuals. This can be traced all the way back to multiple civilization’s mythologies.

The Norse had Thor (who we have since recycled), with the ability to conjure thunder. The Egyptians had Anubis, half man half wolf. The Greeks has Zeus, Hades, Hercules, Athena, and many other recognizable figures. And of course the Romans used the same technique that Marvel and DC comics have used so well on each other throughout the years: they stole all their characters from the Greeks, gave them similar abilities, and then renamed them so as not to impose on copyright agreements. (They had those in the Greek and Roman civilizations, right?)

Obviously these characters are all religious in nature, but they complete the same function that our modern days heroes do. They gave people in the past something to look up to, idolize, and dream about.

With the comic book industry being around for well over a century, and the concept of superheros being around for thousands of years, I find it hard to understand the negativity and mistrust in the future of superhero movies. We as a race will keep on innovating new and entertaining tales. We may flounder at times (every Fantastic Four movie ever) but we will get past these mistakes. In the end the superhero always wins.

By Sam Wampfler

Stop Calling Every Animated Movie a “Children’s Movie!”

By Josiah Wampfler

Toy Story, My Neighbor Totoro, Robin Hood, Lion King, Shrek. All kid’s movies, right? Why is that? You may say it is because they are animated films, are mostly appropriate for little ones and they contain silly creatures. But don’t many adults enjoy films that contain these things as well? I mean, Avatar besides maybe the violence being a bit too much for children is basically one of these so-called kid’s movies!

Why does animation always seem to mean children’s movie? I mean, it seems like you must have wildly inappropriate content in your animated feature or TV show (i.e. South Park and Family Guy) to fall into another category besides “children’s.” Sure, animated films have come a long way in their acceptance in the mainstream. I mean, in 2009, Up was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. But, there still seems to be a propensity to still refer to almost any form of animation as a kid’s movie.

For example, Pixar recently released their latest animated feature, Inside Out, to rave reviews. One of the critics that went against the grain was Vince Mancini, writing a scathing review of it for Uproxx. His review is what sparked my indignation toward the term “kid’s movie,” and it all started with his first paragraph:

“Somewhere on the way to the theater for my press screening for Inside Out, it dawned on me that I was a man over the age of 30 riding his bicycle to the local multiplex for the purpose of writing a thorough critique of a film designed to quiet noisy 10-year-olds.”

Why is it such a terrible thing for an adult to be seeing an animated film? Especially one put out by a studio that time and time again has proven it can make high quality films. Besides that though, it is a wholly insincere reading of Inside Out! It was not a “film designed to quiet noisy 10-year-olds,” but, like most other Pixar movies, a film that is meant to entertain a large demographic that includes both the young and old.

And the thing is, a lot of animated films that get called kid’s movies, are entertaining for the young and old. Which is why I would like the terms “kid’s movie” or “children’s movie” used much less in the popular vernacular. Pixar, Disney and even DreamWorks all put out films that can entertain both children and adults. Unless a work is specifically made only for kids (i.e. Dora the Explorer)  call them animated films, because that’s what they are.

Whether it is the Shrek films, Disney’s animated films, the works of Hayao Miyazaki, or even Madagacar, in the end all of these films should be treated as that: films. You can debate whether they are good or not, but to refer to any animated work as a work that is only suitable for children short-changes these films. It has the effect of implying that they are lesser.

Animators have created some of my favorite films; films ranging from the family friendly Up to the much more mature The Wind Rises. They are artists working at their craft, just like any other filmmaker. So, saying the purpose of animated films like Inside Out is to “quiet noisy 10 year-olds,” is just plain offensive.

So do us all a favor, and give these films the respect they deserve. Animation is merely one way to present a film and it by no means makes that film of worse than a live action film, in and of itself.

So the next time you go to see a Pixar film, or even the latest Despicable Me, don’t be ashamed. If the filmmakers have made a good film, that its animated won’t make it worse. It might actually make it better.


You can hear us discuss more about “Inside Out” later this week on the Cinema Bros Podcast.