My Week in Movies – December 31st

Joy

Joy winds through the life of the titular character. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is perfect. The rest of the movie fails to support her and wastes her talents in a boring flick. There are hints of a good film here. A worthy protagonist, a compelling struggle and a winning end. But nothing shines as bright as Lawrence and that leaves this film muddling through the latter half of the run time.

No Escape

I went into No Escape expecting a story of Typhoon Haiyan. Instead I found an action thriller. I’m not a fan of Owen Wilson. But this film convinced me he can perform well outside of a comedic role. Wilson guides his family through danger as the country devolves into revolution. Challenges abound and some timely help from Pierce Brosnan keep the family alive.

Pan

How about you and I pretend I didn’t list Pan as one of my most anticipated films of 2015. Got it? Great. Thanks.

The Gift

Jason Bateman continues to deliver interesting performances in smaller films. In The Gift, Bateman plays a bully who has a chance encounter with one his schoolyard targets. Joel Edgerton, writer, director and Gordo, delivers a creepy performance. Bateman’s life starts a slow spiral as he tries to keep Gordo at bay. But everything crashes down around him as he resorts to his bullying tendencies.

War Room

War Room surprised me but I’m happy I saw it. I’m not a fan of religious films. Often their focus on miracles instead of every day living is disheartening. I’m sure miracle stories are inspiring to many. But the practicality of War Room inspires me. It offers guidance that doesn’t rely on miracles to improve one’s life. That prayer, or meditation, and a willingness to adjust one’s lifestyle and forgiveness can do a lot. War Room isn’t for everyone. But it was for me.
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The Danish Girl

Eddie Redmayne is excellent as is Alicia Vikander. There are qualms to be had with the subject source. I hope there was an attempt to cast a transgender actress. But their performances and the film as a whole are award worthy. This year has been the year of Alicia Vikander. Hope we continue to see her career grow.

Minions

Yep. Minions. I am not the targeted audience and it showed.

Concussion

Is Concussion the film that kills American football? Probably not. Will Smith is superb. I’m not sure if the accent matches that of the person. But his performance with it was perfection. I know I wasn’t keen on letting any future children of mine play tackle football. This picture shows the world why.

My Week in Movies – December 24th

Vacation

John Francis Daley’s departure from Bones was a sad moment. He left a great acting role to be a screenwriter and director. It was my hope that Daley would go on to do awesome things behind the camera. Vacation fails to go anywhere. A comedy about the importance of family, the dynamics of the family ring true. The comedy doesn’t rise above elementary school penis and poop jokes. I wasn’t expecting much out of this film and that’s what I got. One can only hope Daley’s next screenwriting credit can graduate to some higher humor.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Normally, I’d spend a paragraph discussing a movie, but Star Wars The Force Awakens deserves so much more. So look forward to a full movie review in the near future.

My Week in Movies – December 17th

Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation

On one hand, I’m disappointed I didn’t catch Rogue Nation in theaters. On the other, I’m happy I saw Spectre first because I’m sure my review of it would have been less favorable. In the fifth installment, a US security committee determines the Impossible Missions Force to be obsolete. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on the trail of The Syndicate, an organization modeled on the IMF but with cross purposes. The film follows Hunt as he evades Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin), with the help of Benji (Simon Pegg) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner), to root out the Syndicate.

It’s a fantastic action thriller. But if you only see one spy movie, go see The Man from U.N.C.L.E. But if you see two, watch Rogue Nation.

Terminator Genisys

Another in-universe reboot, Terminator Genisys brings the franchise back from the depths. As always, John Connor (Jason Clarke) send Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). This time a T-1000 greets Reese at his arrival. Sarah and Pops rescue Reese and they try to adapt to the changes in the timeline. They travel forward to 2017 to stop Genisys, the proto-Skynet developed at Cyberdyne Systems in San Francisco. Genisys updates the franchise for a future of constant connectedness. The performances are good but the story is convoluted at times.

Trainwreck

Amy Schumer stars in Trainwreck, a movie about … well, a trainwreck of a woman. There is romance, comedy and drama but this film drags on far too long. Amy struggles with the imparted views of her father on commitment. Her younger sister is a model family first mother that raises her stepson as her own. Amy is the uncommitted half of a relationship but jokes made at Steven’s sexuality fall flat. Assigned to write an article on a sports surgeon, Amy dances with Dr. Conners through a one night stand to a relationship. Amy, and Dr. Conners, messes up a good thing. After alienating her sister following the death of their father, Amy realizes that she messed up a good thing and moves to win Dr. Conners back.

Trainwreck is a mess of a movie that drags on as it meanders through the various relationships of Amy, how she messes them up, realizes that she needs them and attempts to fix them.

Spy

The supporting cast in this movie drew me to it. The headlining actress deterred me. Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Morena Baccarin and Melissa McCarthy. I’ve struggled to enjoy McCarthy in films like Identity Thief, The Heat and Tammy. But watching her in Gilmore Girls was an enjoyable experience this summer. She continues to grow on me and Spy might be the film that has brought her to the watchable level. McCarthy plays a support agent sent into the field after Law’s character is KIA trying to recover a nuke. The jokes and physical comedy are consistent and above average. Spy won’t rank high in the grand scheme of things but it’s a solid action comedy good for some laughs. I anxiously await Ghostbusters.

My Week in Movies – December 10th

The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur suffers from being a Pixar movie that debuted the same year as Inside Out. The animation is the best I’ve seen in a movie. Just like the first time I saw Incredibles and Elastagirl’s hair, the scenery in The Good Dinosaur is astounding. Unfortunately, this movie is otherwise a run of the mill Disney film. Arlo, the eponymous Good Dinosaur, is the runt of his siblings and seemingly fails at every task assigned to him. His father is killed in a very Mufasa-esque scene this time with rushing water instead of a herd of wildebeests. I’m really not sure why this movie had to take place in an alternate universe.

Watch It: If you want to see a solid animated movie.
Skip It: If you have young children, there’s no blood, but a decent amount of violence and scary moments.

My Week in Movies – December 3

Creed

A fantastic story with Rocky (Stallone) mentoring Creed’s child (Jordan). Donny fights his way through his childhood and eventually into the ring. The relationships and character growth in this movie a superb. I only wish the resolutions were cut so short to move the film into the final fight with Pretty Ricky Conlin. Otherwise a great movie even though I haven’t seen any of the other Rocky films.

Watch It: If you’re want to see an Oscar worthy performance from Stallone and a mostly fantastic screenplay.
Skip It: If you’re allergic to blood, but even then you can watch it.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Henry Cavil and Armie Hammer play American and Russian spies sent to help Alicia Vikander find her nuclear weapon scientist father. What a fun romp through Cold War Europe. The chemistry of the cast and the direction of the film are great. Not a top tier film for me but clearly a cut above.

Watch It: For a good water/oil team up action movie.
Skip It: If you’re looking for something more serious.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (2014)

A movie I skipped in theaters last year, this turned out to be a very enjoyable family friendly film. It can be tough to adapt children stories into screenplays but this film does a good job of maintaining the message of the book. Every character in Alexander’s family gets a share of the bad day but they realize that family is what really matters.

Watch It: If you’re in the mood for a comedic family friendly film.
Skip It: If you can’t be bothered with a kid film.

Selfless

Ryan Reynolds is really solid in this movie that deals with death, immortality and immorality. He plays two characters, the first has sold his body (and thus his life) to a corporation in exchange for treatment for his sick daughter. The second character is the transferred consciousness of Ben Kingsley a dying real estate mogul. The movie focuses on the cost and morality of exchanging someone else’s life for your own.

Watch It: If you want to watch a good thriller with an interesting theme.
Skip It: If you dislike Ryan Reynolds.

My Week in Movies – November 12th

Black Sea

What a movie and a great role for Jude Law. He’s such a fantastic actor. In fact, this movie is great and that is 100% based on his performance. Law plays a salvager who’s fired from his job who aims for one last dive. He gathers his crew and some resources and dives down into the depths. Law’s Captain Robinson must struggle to retain control over himself and his divided crew as they hope to take a stash of gold from under the Russian fleet.

Watch It: If you like Jude Law or a great adventure flick.
Skip It: If the depths and darkness of the ocean are too overwhelming.

Mad Max: Fury Road

So, yeah. This movie was absolutely fantastic. The only dissonance? Why isn’t this movie called Imperator Furiosa instead? Because this movie certainly wasn’t about Max at all.1 Tom Hardy was good in his limited role, but Charlize Theron was absolutely magnificent.

Watch It: If you want to see one of the best characters this year.
Skip It: You shouldn’t. But if you need a reason it’s because this movie isn’t about Max at all.

Spectre

Another Bond film, another solid action flick. Craig and Mendes team up to wrap up Craig’s time as Bond. Spectre introduces the organization that opposes Bond at every turn and peels back the layers on his recent experiences tying them all together. I remember loving Casino Royale, enjoying Quantum of Solace, and raving about Skyfall. I figure Spectre will slot in above Quantum but behind the other two.

Watch It: How can I not recommend a Craig Bond film. He’s been incredible every time.
Skip It: There are plenty of Bond films to skip. This isn’t one of them.


  1. Granted, I must admit I’ve never even watched any of the other Mad Max films. 

My Week in Movies – November 5th

American Sniper (2014)

Bradley Cooper takes on the titular role of Chris Kyle, a SEAL sniper deployed during the Iraq War. Kyle is the deadliest U.S. sniper in history. We watch Kyle deploy four times to Iraq with intermittent glimpses into his past and life state-side. It felt like the script had difficulty portraying Kyle. The movie wanted to portray him as a selfless hero, and yet it focused him with a need for revenge.

Watch It: If you need a good shot of nationalism.
Skip It: If you’d prefer to avoid an overly forced narrative.

Cake

Jennifer Aniston is incredibly compelling in this film about pain and the path to recovery. A collection of great performances by Adrian Barraza, Anna Kendrick and Sam Worthington take this movie up a notch. The journey, characters and emotions on display are strong and deep. As a watcher, you are disappointed with some of the decisions that are made, but you understand the reasoning and hope that they find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Watch It: If you want to see an incredibly superb set of performances.
Skip It: If you are sensitive to the topic of suicide.

Chappie

The latest story from Neill Blomkamp is easily his worst feature that I’ve seen. While I love the basic concept and exploration of consciousness, especially the comparison of artificial intelligence to humanity. Unfortunately, I found the antagonist, played by Hugh Jackman, incredibly boring. An ex-military guy who just wants to use his bigger gunned robot and has to sabotage everything to get green light. I think Blomkamp could have created a better antagonist. Otherwise, the consciousness commentary is a good look, if again, a bit unimaginative.

Watch It: If you’re interested in a somewhat thought provoking commentary on consciousness.
Skip It: If you want a strong antagonist or a fresh take on artificial intelligence.

Cinderella

Wow. Disney has been on an absolute roll this year. Tomorrowland. Inside Out. And now Cinderella,1 which slides into the top 20% of the movies I’ve seen this year. I was slightly concerned with the live action takes after Alice in Wonderland. It was solid but not sure it was worth the re-telling. Cinderella and Emma Watson cast as Belle give me hope for the future. Also, could The Good Dinosaur give Disney 20% of the top 20%? Crazy.

Watch It: If you want to see a great fairytale re-telling.
Skip It: If you hate yourself.

Pixels

For a while, I was into Adam Sandler’s movies. Recently, it’s been tough sledding and Pixels continues this downward trend. The roles, jokes and acting are so predictable these days, you could easily re-label any recent Adam Sandler movie as another. The chemistry works a bit better here than in the last few Sandler movies. Kevin James and Peter Dinklage were great. Sandler and Josh Gad were just okay. Even for a video game fan like myself, the premise for this one was stretched a little too far.

Watch It: If you’re okay watching Sandler do the same thing again.
Skip It: If you’ve seen this script one too many times.

Home

Rihanna and Jim Parsons lend their voices to this great movie from Dreamworks. An adventure of pairing a smart, young girl and a walking disaster as they try to find their home’s. A heart-warming animated film that hits all the positive notes. The only thing holding this movie back is that Pixar’s already hit with Inside Out.

Watch It: If you’re in need of a great, happy story.
Skip It: If you find Jim Parsons annoying.


  1. Yes, I know Cinderella came first but I didn’t catch it in theaters. 

My Week in Movies – October 29th

This week I begin my end of the year movie binge and I kick off with several thrillers of varying quality and a few book adaptations.

Breach (2007)

I watched this movie on the recommendation of Ben. It took a while to get to but it was worth the wait. Based on the takedown of Robert Hanssen played by Chris Cooper. Eric O’Neill, played by Ryan Phillipe, is assigned to investigate Hanssen for sexual deviancy. The initial investigation goes nowhere until, O’Neill’s handler, Kate Burroughs, explains that Hanssen is a traitor who has been selling secrets to the Russians for years. The lying, thrills and relationships in this movie are top notch.

Watch It: If you’re in the mood for a slow, but expertly crafted thriller.
Skip It: Don’t.

The Loft (2014)

Another thriller with a faster pace than Breach. The Loft tells the story of five married men who share a condo for discrete encounters. Led by Karl Urban’s Vincent and James Marsden’s Chris, we watch the five men deal with a dead woman in their hideaway. As the story unfolds, we flashback to the precipitating events that led to the girl’s death. Slowly, it is revealed exactly what, how, and why things transpired the way they did.

Watch It: If you’re in the mood for another thriller with some decent twists.
Skip It: It’s pretty skippable. Certainly not a top tier thriller.

Wildcard (2015)

Billed as a “crime thriller”, this was more of an action flick and poor Jason Statham vehicle. Statham plays a gambling addict who currently pays the bills by chaperoning1 rich people as they visit Las Vegas. He’s called in by a friend of his, Holly played by Dominik Garcia-Lorido, to help her get revenge against a local gangster. The movie follows Statham as he follows up on leads to locate DeMarco, played by a creepy Milo Ventimiglia.

Watch It: If you’re willing to suffer through a bad film to see some good Statham fight scenes.
Skip It: If you want something, anything, of substance.

Goosebumps (2015)

A film I caught in theaters, Goosebumps is an entry banking on timing, and boy did it work. Released in October, it’s a perfectly not-so-scary scary film catering to kids. It’s also using nostalgia for all of the now-all-grown-up 90s kids. Jack Black did well as R.L. Stine and the villain was absolutely on point. The themes were resonant. All around good film. Not so much a book adaptation but a series adaptation.

Watch It: Good humor. Fun scares. Interesting characters.
Skip It: You have an issue with puppets.

Seventh Son (2015)

A second book adaptation film, Seventh Son is based on The Spook’s Apprentice, which I haven’t read. But it doesn’t seem to matter because from what I gathered on wikipedia, it was nothing like the book. It had a few actors I like. Julianne Moore. Jeff Bridges. Alicia Vikander. But the plot was lacking anything distinguishing. All the women being evil, with one exception, didn’t help either.

Watch It: If you need to see a high-ish fantasy flick.
Skip It: If you want to save yourself from boredom and a string of tropes.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015)

I remember liking the original Hot Tub Time Machine while catching it on Netflix a year or two ago. But this follow-up was an unnecessary mess. The characters are the same and still haven’t grown up. And playing with the paradoxes of time travel is a little heady for this film and the ending is unsatisfying at best.

Watch It: If you absolutely must see these guys attempt to solve a murder mystery.
Skip It: If you want to retain any shred of your sanity.

The Duff (2015)

The final movie this week is the young adult comedy, The Duff. Despite Mae Whitman being ten years out of high school, she manages to pull off the age of the role pretty well. Her co-stars do a solid job opposite her and I appreciate the message of the movie, even if it’s been done so many times before. This time the magical moment of exiting her cocoon of blandess, isn’t so magical and unbelievable. The transformation is just the right amount.

Watch It: For the laughs and awkwardness of another high school rom-com.
Skip It: If you’ve seen this theme one too many times.


  1. Aka bodyguard-ing 

Welcome Back!

Welcome back, fellow explorers! It’s been a while since Charles and I have done much around here. Our roommate experiment was a success!1 Everyone lived. Everyone was happy. Everyone except you, our listeners and readers! We’ve got a lot going on still but we’ve re-dedicated ourselves to our pursuit of our Pop Culture City of Gold and we’re inviting you to re-join us.

Season 3 of the Culture Conquistadors Podcast

Our journey begins anew! Charles and I started this journey way back in October 2012. Three years later, we’re hoping to take it to the next act. We kick off Season 3 talking about Ridley Scott’s The Martian and it’s star-studded cast. If you’re already subscribed, we’ve taken the liberty of updating our podcast URLs for you! But if you aren’t, subscribe now! We’re going to be trying a bunch of new ideas for this season. Expect experimental formats, quicker editing and more timely episodes!

Gaming Guerrillas Podcast

It’s not easy saying goodbye, so we won’t. We’re just going to say, see you later. Ben is busy getting hitched and I’m focusing my efforts on the main show. Once everything settles down for the three of us, we’ll re-examine the Gaming Guerrillas Podcast and see what improvements we can make. In the meantime, you can still subscribe to the GG feed and catch the show as soon as it goes live.

Context Sensitive Podcast

Charles is flying solo in his new podcast, Context Sensitive. In this show, Charles will discuss an upcoming (or recently released) movie’s place in cinema. What other films and events led to and influenced this particular movie? How did it come to be that Mars films were considered poison as recently as 20122 and yet The Martian is doing pretty damn well? Questions like these will be answered in a way only Charles can. Subscribe now!

Writing’s on the Wall

Throughout our partnership, Charles and I have tried many a times to produce quality written content on our website. It works! In phases. At times Charles conjures SIX THOUSAND words on movies like Jurassic World. At times I write weekly reviews for months! And Amber‘s written about so, so many books and Ben’s provided a TEN THOUSAND word treatise on V for Vendetta. But then it peters out. For me, this is mostly a result of the fact that I write thousands of words for my tabletop role-playing games every couple weeks.3 So, we’re not promising any regular schedule for written content. But it will show up every once and a while and we are digging through the archives to make sure every article we wrote will be here somewhere. So keep checking in and reading!

A New Website

Finally, we’ve moved our virtual home.4 A website update has been in the works for months, but it’s been a toil that’s been far too draining. So we’re restarting simple and fresh. Slowly the appearance will update as we find time but we’re going to be careful to not allow it to distract us from our quest, which is to deliver awesome conversations about pop culture. One cool new feature is a main podcast feed that will collect all the episodes of every show we do into a single, simple feed. You can subscribe and receive every episode of Culture Conquistadors, Gaming Guerrillas and Context Sensitive (and any new project we come up with). You might also notice that we’ve got a media player on the website so you can now listen to the episode right here in your web browser.

So, thanks for sticking with us even when you weren’t sure we’d come back. We are back now. So stay tuned for more awesome content for the Culture Conquistadors as we get into the swing of things again. And let us know what you like!5 So that we can do more of that and keep you listening and reading as we explore pop culture for our city of gold.


  1. But to the detriment of our podcast and website. Who could have foreseen that? 
  2. To the point of stripping the word Mars from all marketing materials for a movie. 
  3. Though this year, it’s mostly because I haven’t been to the theater as much. 
  4. Well, most of our home. Over the next few days, all the old content will be re-appearing. 
  5. Or don’t like. We want to hear it all. 

My Week in Movies – February 12th

An interesting week in which I see two of my most anticipated films of 2014.

Project Almanac

Project Almanac had been, when it was still titled Welcome to Yesterday, one of my anticipated films of last year. But it slipped into February where films go to die. The initial premise and teaser were intriguing. High schoolers get hold of a time travel device and go back in time, something they know they will be able to do because a video from the past shows them doing it. The movie explored the premise and the consequences, but I found it nearly impossible to watch. The shaky cam proved too much for my well-honed senses and I spent most of the movie lying down and listening to the action.

Watch It: Actually, you can just:
Skip It: It’s an average movie at best. No need to see it.

Jupiter Ascending

The Wachowskis return with another future science fiction epic. This time, sadly, it’s not quite as good. Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis deliver solid performances and the world the Wachowskis show us is incredibly colorful and interesting. But the main plot and the villain, played by a recently coronated Best Actor Oscar Winner, leave a lot to be desired. Jupiter Ascending doesn’t feel particularly new. The themes from The Matrix re-appear mostly untouched: harvesting humans, reincarnation, an anointed one. But it is a beautiful movie and has an every-woman protagonist who gets swept up in a sibling rivalry.

Watch It: If you’re willing to sit through a bit more film and few more characters than we actually needed.
Skip It: If you think you’ve likely seen this film before.