Fyre & Fyre Fraud

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Armageddon > Deep Impact.  Dante’s Peak > Volcano (confession, I’ve never actually seen Dante’s Peak).  Tombstone > Wyatt Earp.   Olympus Has Fallen > White House Down.  The Prestige > The Illusionist.  No Strings Attached > Friends With Benefits (I think?).  Patriot’s Day > Stronger.  A Quiet Place > Bird Box (Yo, FUCK Bird Box).

It’s quite common for Hollywood to produce two competing projects about the same concept or event in the same year.  Two stubborn studios are in a race to get their version released before the other and almost always the first one to come out is significantly better.  No one ever remembers the second movie or frankly cares about it at all.  It’s like when you and your friend take a great pic and there’s a quick draw to see who can post it faster to Instagram.  Whoever posts it second is forever deemed a fraud by mutual followers, or something.


So all of these movies above came out in the same year, but what I haven’t seen before is two such projects coming out within a week of each other like Hulu’s Fyre Fraud and Netflix’s Fyre.  This was just a masterfully orchestrated move in deception on Hulu’s part. I have to assume both projects were aware of each other during production, but Netflix had their release date on the books (Friday, January 18th) for at least a couple months. Hulu, on the other hand, kept their cards close to the chest and surprise released their documentary the Monday before Netflix’s dropped, without even any advertisement. How cunning.  Now, Hulu’s footprint on streaming commerce will not eclipse Netflix anytime soon, but this small victory should at least feel good for them.

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For those who don’t know what Fyre Fest is (Hi Mom!), Fyre Fest was a lavish music festival marketed towards wealthy, party hungry 20-somethings slated to take place in the Bahamas in April 2017, however turned out to be one giant scam that created a lord of the flies type situation at the abroad concert venue for 24 hours.  Because many victims of this crime were the type of assholes that would pay $10,000+ to see Major Lazer, it was mostly regarded as a hilarious occurrence on Twitter when the news broke.  While both of these documentaries ARE very funny when looking at it from that perspective, each film also takes a step back does a good job of shedding light on the real victims of the scam, the people of the Bahamas that were never compensated for their time and materials (The Netflix version is particularly heartbreaking in a few scenes).  Since the release of the films there’s actually been a GoFundMe created to help these people if you want to help out.

Both of these movies are good and I would recommend either depending on what subscription you have, but there are no ties on Rated Greg.  So which one is better?


I strongly believe that Hulu’s Fyre Fraud is the superior film.  I’ll admit I did see the Hulu doc before Netflix’s and viewers are obviously inclined to like the one they saw first in these situations, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.  There are two main reasons why Hulu’s Fyre Fraud is better.

1. Netflix’s Fyre is fairly straightforward when it comes to this story.  It examines the creation of Fyre Media, the bonkers planning of the April 2017 event, and the aftermath of the festival failure.  Hulu covers all of this just as well, but also does a better job at looking at the bigger picture.  There’s a great section that assesses how Instagram influencer culture came to be and it’s consequential effects on a FOMO-ridden millennial generation.  It explains why Billy McFarland, the villain at the center of this debacle, was able to sell ridiculously priced tickets to a fantasy festival in the first place.


2.  Speaking of that villain, Hulu’s doc has a sit down with McFarland whereas Netflix does not and it turns out to be a crucial aspect in fully absorbing the story.  Remember HBO’s The Jinx?  Imagine watching The Jinx without the interviews with Robert Durst.  It might still work, but definitely not as well.  Apparently Netflix also tried to get a sit down with McFarland but they failed to meet his compensation demands.  Now, it is a little fucked up that McFarland is still profiting off of this scam, but the optimist in me hopes that the Hulu money is going directly to his victims and not his lawyers.  I understand if people are hesitant of Hulu giving McFarland a platform to explain himself, but in no way does the sit down paint him in a positive light.  For such a criminal mastermind, the guy is sort of a doofus and repeatedly shoots himself in the foot (kinda like The Jinx). Hulu also has an interview with McFarland’s current girlfriend who’s quite strange herself, but she’s never mentioned in the Netflix doc.


Anyways, you really can’t go wrong with either, but if you have access to a Hulu log in, I would go with the Hulu doc before Netflix.

Hulu’s Fyre Fraud: A-

Netflix’s Fyre: B+

The Year in Movies – 2018

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There were 146 movies released in some form or another in 2018 that I wanted to see.   As someone who doesn’t watch trailers, here are the various reasons how something gets added to that watchlist.

  1. A great director (First Man worked out, Buster Scruggs didn’t)
  2. A great cast (Widows worked out, Tag didn’t)
  3. A high rotten tomatoes score (Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse worked out, Bumblebee didn’t)
  4. Friend recommendation (Private Life worked out (thanks Juan), Bird Box didn’t (I take it back Juan))
  5. Passing praise on a blog or podcast (Minding The Gap worked out (thanks Sean Fennessey)), First Reformed didn’t (fuck you Sean Fennessey))
  6. Blind obligation because it’s a sequel to something I loved (The Predator and Creed II are both ok, but they did fail to reach the hype in varying degrees)
  7. Only because my mom won’t stop asking if I saw it (RBG worked out, Green Book is TBD).

Unfortunately nothing is foolproof, as each of these avenues will let you down occasionally.  Of the 114 movies that I’ve seen thus far from that list, I only liked 69 of them (Grade C or above).  Yes, I’m fully aware how ridiculous that sounds to watch 100+ movies, who has the time, blah blah blah.  Look, some people go to church on Sunday mornings, I go to the movie theater.  Can I live?

But anyways, 114 movies in 2018.  69 for 114 isn’t a terrible shooting percentage I guess.  If you watched 100 basketball games over the same span, a similar % would be considered “good” games.  But I have a hard time assessing the overall current year compared to prior years as it takes a full 12 months post premiere, at the very least, for a film to become fully appreciated.  For instance, I can’t believe I rated Get Out behind Atomic Blonde and I, Tonya last December.  That is absurd, given that I now view Get Out as perhaps THE film of the decade.

I count eight A+’s in 2018 at the moment, but who knows what movies might actually be gems a year from now.  Upon re-assessing 2016, I moved American Honey and Popstar up into the top tier. But upon reassessing 2017, I also moved Baby Driver, Apes, and Logan down into the second tier.  It’s all relative.  It’s possible that The Favourite might turn out to be a masterpiece, it’s possible that The Predator (bonkers as it is) might be a cult classic, and it’s certainly possible that my bullish stance on Sicario 2 was skewed by my BAC on that Friday night viewing.

Nonetheless, you’ll find below the highlights of 2018 along with a complete ranking of the 114 as I see it today.  But before I get to that, one more thing.  It’s hard to say how much I’ll keep up with this blog in 2019.  I’m sure I will still see plenty of movies and continue to catalog them like the dork that I am, but as far as actual posts go I might be running out of takes.  We’ll see what inspires Rated Greg.  Nonetheless, thank you for your continued support of this hobby, whether feigned or genuine.  I always appreciate the feedback, and formally apologize if Rated Greg led you towards a terrible movie night decision.  If that happens please let me make it up to you and I bet I can redeem myself.

Official 2018 Report Card and further Superlatives are below:

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For the record, Tag is still better than The Shape of Water.

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And now, The Rated Greg Superlatives:

Best Lead Actor

  1. Christian Bale* – Vice
  2. Ryan Gosling – First Man
  3. Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born
  4. Benicio Del Toro – Sicario: Day of the Soldado
  5. Alden Ehreneich** – Solo: A Star Wars Story

*I think I enjoyed Vice less than others, just kinda seemed like a mess, but I will say that the best part about it is Bale’s incredible performance.

**Taking on the role of Han Solo is an impossible task and the fact that Alden pulled it off, at least in my opinion, deserves some praise.  Granted, this is a VERY shallow field outside of the top 3.

Best Lead Actress

  1. Carey Mulligan – Wildlife
  2. Emily Blunt – A Quiet Place
  3. Toni Collette – Hereditary
  4. Viola Davis – Widows
  5. Elsie Fisher* – Eighth Grade

*On the other hand, Lead Actress is extremely deep.  It pains me to leave Natalie Portman (Annihilation) and Lady Gaga (Star Is Born) out, but there’s just nowhere to go.  I thought about removing Elsie Fisher given that she’s very likely just playing herself, but that movie doesn’t work nearly as well without her very authentic performance.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Colman Domingo* – If Beale Street Could Talk
  2. Sam Elliott – A Star Is Born
  3. Jake Gyllenhaal – Wildlife
  4. Josh Hamilton – Eighth Grade
  5. Shia LaBeouf** – Borg vs McEnroe

*This could easily go to Brian Tyree Henry as well, but I’m trying to limit to one per movie.  Domingo gets the nod since he has more screen time.

**This is a MUCH better movie if it’s just a McEnroe biopic starring Shia.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Emma Stone* – The Favourite
  2. Claire Foy – First Man
  3. Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
  4. Anne Hathaway – Ocean’s 8
  5. Rachel McAdams – Game Night

*I wasn’t sure who’s the lead and who’s supporting in Favourite, so this may be cheating.  But whatever the case Stone is en fuego this entire movie.


Best Villain

  1. Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) – Widows
  2. Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) – Black Panther
  3. Ray Merriman (Pablo Schreiber) – Den of Thieves
  4. Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) – Mute
  5. The Screaming Bear – Annihilation

Best Sidekick/Comic Relief

  1. Drug Dealer Tim (Anton Yelchin) – Thoroughbreds
  2. Luis (Michael Pena) – Ant-Man and the Wasp
  3. Kevin (Lamorne Harris) – Game Night
  4. L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) – Solo: A Star Wars Story
  5. Drax (Dave Bautista) – Avengers: Infinity War

Worst Character and/or Performance

  1. Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman)* – Black Panther
  2. Halliday (Mark Rylance) – Ready Player One
  3. Detective Vick (Debra Messing) – Searching
  4. Duncan (Pete Davidson) – Set It Up
  5. King Orn (Patrick Wilson) – Aquaman

*Why the F is he in this movie?  Is Martin Freeman the first ever token white guy?

Best Ridiculous Performance

  1. Gerard Butler* – Den of Thieves
  2. Chris Hemsworth – Bad Times at the El Royale
  3. Olivia Munn- The Predator
  4. Tom Hardy – Venom
  5. Mark Wahlberg – Mile 22

*Sure Christian Bale is incredible in Vice, but THE MOST ENTERTAINING performance of the year is whatever the hell Butler is doing in Den of Thieves.  He’s chewing up and spitting out every scene he’s in.


Best Volume Year**

  1. Brian Tyree Henry (Widows, Beale Street, Spiderverse, Atlanta)
  2. Olivia the dog* (Game Night, Widows)
  3. Michael B Jordan (Black Panther, Creed II)
  4. Kathryn Hahn (Private Life, Spiderverse)
  5. Skateboarding (Mid90’s, Minding The Gap)

*Shout out to the three year old, 15 pound, West Highland white terrier.  Her Mom and Dad must be so proud.

** Lucas Hedges could also be on here with Mid90’s, Ben is Back, and Boy Erased, but I haven’t seen the latter two yet.


Most LOL’s

  1. Game Night
  2. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  3. The Favourite
  4. Deadpool 2
  5. Blockers

Most Frightening

  1. Eighth Grade
  2. Hereditary
  3. Ralph Breaks The Internet*
  4. Annihilation
  5. A Quiet Place

*The parents who took their young children to the Wreck-It-Ralph sequel were likely thanked with a week’s worth nightmares from the kids.  The movie starts off pretty straight forward but the third act has some legitimately creepy, yet profound metaphors on the correlation between social media, neediness, and depression.

Most Feelings

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk*
  2. A Star Is Born
  3. Minding The Gap
  4. First Man
  5. Mid 90’s

I didn’t get the chance to write about it, but If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL work of art.  Barry Jenkins follow up to Moonlight is a must see.

Best Looking/Cinemetography*

  1. Sicario: Day of the Soldado
  2. Widows
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk
  4. A Star is Born
  5. Isle of Dogs/Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse**

*Another very deep field.  Is it just me, or has cinematography evolved exponentially in the past few years?  I’m not just talking about high definition, but it seems like experimental angles, wide frames, and tracking shots are used more and more to cool effect each year.  Wildlife, Hereditary, The Favourite, First Man, Minding The Gap, MI6, and A Quiet Place all also look amazing.

**I generally wouldn’t include animated here, but these two both look like nothing else I have ever seen.


Best Action Scene

  1. The Paris Chase – Mission Impossible: Fallout
  2. Training Montage – Creed II
  3. The Ambush – Sicario: Day of the Soldado
  4. The Stampede – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  5. The Highway Shootout – Den of Thieves

Best Non-Action Scene (I’ll be vague going down)

  1. The Duet – A Star Is Born
  2. The Freestyle – Widows
  3. Old Friends Catching Up – If Beale Street Could Talk
  4. The Drug Deal – Hot Summer Nights
  5. The Incident – Hereditary

Best Fight

  1. The Bathroom – Mission Impossible: Fallout
  2. Creed v Drago – Creed II
  3. The Butcher Shop – The Night Comes for Us
  4. Elastagirl vs The Screenslaver – Incredibles II
  5. The Final Battle – Outlaw King

Best Use of a Song (Non-Star Is Born)

  1. Whitey on the Moon (Gil Scott-Heron) – First Man
  2. Helplessly Hoping (Crosby, Stills, and Nash) – Annihilation
  3. Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler)* – The Strangers: Prey At Night
  4. Liquid Swords (GZA) – Mid90’s
  5. Too Late To Turn Back Now (The Cornelius Brothers) – BlacKkKlansman

*The Strangers 2 is a REALLY bad movie.  I do not recommend it.  Except is does have this fantastic motel pool kill scene set to the tune of Bonnie Tyler.  I know it seems sacrilegious for a film to use Total Eclipse of the Heart after Wedding Crashers, but this really works.

Best Film Score*

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell)
  2. Sweet Virginia (Brooke Blair and Will Blair)
  3. Mid90’s (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
  4. First Man (Justin Hurwitz)
  5. Hereditary (Colin Stetson)

*One of my go to’s when I really need to concentrate on something is to throw on a film scores playlist.  There were some GREAT one’s added to the playlist this year.

Five Random Quotes

  1. “Gucci!” – Eighth Grade
  2. “On my planet I’m kind of a loser, like you” – Venom
  3. “What is this, some kind of pervert hotel?” – Bad Times at the El Royale
  4. “That’s not a predator, that’s a sports hunter. A predator kills it’s prey to survive.  What your describing is a bass fisherman.” – The Predator
  5. “Fuck, shit, that was dope” – Mid90’s

Twenty-Two Other Things That Made Me Feel Some Type of Way (in no particular order)

  1. The pool party in Eighth Grade
  2. The Disney Princesses in Ralph 2
  3. Killmonger and T’Challa’s heart to heart in Black Panther
  4. Beni Hana in Den of Thieves
  5. Invisible Drax in Avengers
  6. The pizza in Set It Up
  7. The beach sequence in The Meg
  8. Bradley Cooper wrestling his dog in Star Is Born
  9. The high five in Momentum Generation
  10. The mid credits scene in May It Last
  11. Naughty Marco Polo in Blockers
  12. The bowling alley in Widows
  13. The very end of A Quiet Place
  14. Lando’s diary in Solo
  15. The ocean in Roma
  16. The diner in Wildlife
  17. The credits of Mid90’s
  18. The flare sequence in Aquaman
  19. Emma Stone roughhousing in The Favorite
  20. The rushed origin stories in Spiderverse
  21. Packing in First Man
  22. The shootout in Hold The Dark

Most Anticipated in 2019

  1. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
  2. The Irishman
  3. Us
  4. Joker
  5. The Beach Bum
  6. Ford v. Ferrari
  7. Triple Frontier
  8. The Lion King
  9. It: Chapter 2
  10. Zombieland 2


The Year in TV – 2018

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Once upon a time the best shows on TV were consensus. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. The Sopranos. The Wire. Everyone watched on Sunday night and everyone talked about it on Monday morning. Game of Thrones is probably grandfathered into that scenario, but it’s perhaps the last one (Thrones also notably took 2018 off).  TV is too personalized for that now. Shows are not just being scripted for only a particular set of people, but none of those people watch at the same time anymore. If a Netflix show is released 7 days prior, there’s no shot that a 4-person dinner table has all seen the same number of episodes.

So with that caveat, I can’t really claim these as the best 10 shows of the year. One man’s Cobra Kai is another man’s Great British Bake Off (How the F is that a show?). But I, Rated Greg, enjoyed these 10 shows the most in 2018.

  1. Succession (HBO)
  2. Cobra Kai (Youtube Red)
  3. The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
  4. The Americans (FX)
  5. Sharp Objects (HBO)
  6. Atlanta (FX)
  7. Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
  8. Vanderpump Rules (Bravo)
  9. Better Call Saul (AMC)
  10. Narcos: Mexico (Netflix)

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Love, Insecure, Yellowstone, Billions, The Deuce, and of course MTV’s The Challenge: Final Reckoning

Succession (HBO) – Season 1:  Succession is a tough ask. How many lackluster dates will you give someone before you decide not to see them anymore.  One?  Two if they live super close?  Three if they’re really hot?  Four if they have a boat?  How many lackluster episodes will you give a TV show before you unsubscribe?  Because Succession, my favorite show of the year, is admittedly kinda bad in the early stages.  Critics will tell you it doesn’t get good until episode 4. I actually don’t think it really hits it’s stride until episode 6.  Five hours is a lot to ask of someone, but mark my words, you will be rewarded in episodes 6-10 if you stick it out.  It’s hard to say what changes between the two halves of the season. The characters don’t necessary become more likeable, but they are vastly more entertaining.   This five episode stretch is up there with any extended stretch of the Mount Rushmore mentioned in the opener. Succession, you are my number one boy.

Best episode: The one with the bachelor party


Cobra Kai (Youtube Red) – Season 1:  Cobra Kai is also a tough ask. Not because of the quality of any of the episodes, but because it requires you to figure out how to access Youtube Red, a lot more confusing than it should be in 2018. I watched all of Cobra Kai using the free one-month trial, but it was so good that I will definitely be paying for Season 2 next year. For more on the Karate Kid sequel series, you can find my summer ode it here.

Best episode: The one with the All-Valley Karate Tournament


The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix) – Season 1:  This Is Us meets The Conjuring.  Yet again, a tough ask by Rated Greg.  Not because of first episode quality and not because it’s hard to access, but because it resides in the horror genre. Are you one of those people that refuses to watch scary movies? That’s fine, but aren’t there some exceptions you make?  Like, aren’t you glad you saw The Shining?  Aren’t you glad you saw Jaws?  You should see this.

Yes, The Haunting of Hill House is scary.  It’s really fucking scary.  There’s a jump scare towards the end of the season that basically gave me a heart attack.  But it’s also one of the most profound stories about the stages of grief you’ll see, big screen or small.  Each episode focuses on a different member of the Crane family (Lost style) and it intertwines between the ghostly things that the children encountered growing up and the repercussions that experience is having on their own adult lives. The comparison to This Is Us wasn’t a joke.  If you like things about adult siblings getting together, you should give Haunting of Hill House a shot.

Best episode: The one in the funeral home


The Americans (FX) – Season 6:  This was always one of the more under appreciated shows on TV.  Sons of Anarchy is probably the most popular drama FX has ever had, but The Americans is certainly the most critically adored.  Good on FX for keeping it going despite what I’m guessing was a limited financial return.  And it ended on a high note. Final episodes are really tough to be fully satisfying. Parks and Rec, Friday Night Lights come to mind, and you can add The Americans finale to that list. Question: Did Keri Russell kill as many people with her bare hands in Felicity as she did in The Americans?  I never watched Felicity but I can’t think of Russell without picturing all the different ways she could murder me.

Best episode: The one with the finale


Sharp Objects (HBO):  Back to the tough asks. I’m a sucker for all things Amy Adams, Gillian Flynn, and murder mysteries, so of course this was going to make the cut.  But Sharp Objects is a slow burn if there ever was one.  At times a dreadfully slow burn.  It’s also very…… humid, which is an adjective I never imagined linking to a TV show, but if you’ve seen it you’ll understand.  Nonetheless I enjoyed my time in Wind Gap, Missouri and was sad when the 8 episode mini series wrapped up.

Best episode: The one where the mystery is uncovered


Atlanta (FX) – Season 2:  My favorite show of 2016 took a minor step back in season 2, only because a few of the episodes got a little too weird for me. I don’t know what the hell Teddy Perkins was…. but Donald Glover is clearly working on a different wavelength than other human beings. Atlanta is still the most creative show on TV though. Each week it can literally go in any direction, and that’s exciting.

Best episode: The one with the barber


Escape at Dannemora (Showtime):  I’m confused as to why Escape at Dannemora isn’t garnering more buzz.  It resides in the ever-popular true crime genre (based on the 2015 upstate New York prison break), it’s directed to perfection by Ben Stiller, and it’s got movie stars. That along with the fact that it’s just really good is formula for a lot of internet content, however I haven’t seen much.  I might be jumping the gun here, as only five of the seven episode mini series have actually aired, but regardless it needs to be on here.  Escape is the best acted show on TV and it features perhaps my favorite single episode of television this year.

Best episode: The one where they break out of prison.


Vanderpump Rules (Bravo) – Season 6:  If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.

Best episode: The one with the curiously placed hot tub pillows


Better Call Saul (AMC) – Season 4:  Better Call Saul will never leave you on pins and needles, but it might be the most consistently entertaining running series. Unlike Atlanta, you know exactly what to expect in a Saul episode because it delivers every time. It’s kind of crazy that this Breaking Bad prequel could end up with more episodes than Breaking Bad (it’s currently at 40 with an order of 10 more to BB’s 62).

Best episode: The one with the twins


Narcos: Mexico (Netflix) – Season 1:  Contrary to popular belief, Narcos: Mexico is not Narcos Season 4. It is completely it’s own thing and actually takes place prior to the Columbian centric Narcos series. In fact, had Narcos never existed, I think Narcos: Mexico would be getting A LOT more praise.  While the two shows share a similar narrative structure, the Mexico version is simply more compelling with significantly better execution. This show is basically gangster movie karaoke, playing homages to The Godfather Part II and Scarface among others.

Best episode: The one where Michael Pena goes undercover





Widows poster

Rated Greg’s Revised Top 5 Movies of 2018

  1. Mission Impossible: Fallout Widows
  2. A Star Is Born Mission Impossible: Fallout
  3. Sicario: Day of the Soldado A Star Is Born
  4. A Quiet Place Sicario: Day of the Soldado
  5. First Man A Quiet Place

There’s a levity that comes with most heist thrillers.  The genre was created as an experience for sheer entertainment, an escape from a mundane reality, films that generally don’t cause for much reflection.  Think Ocean’s 11 or Fast and Furious or even last year’s Baby Driver.  You simply want to watch the heroes get rich quick while making some wisecracks along the way, but at the end of the day their world doesn’t really have anything to do with yours.

The masterpieces of this genre set themselves a part though by carrying extra weight with them.  The peak is arguably 1995’s Heat, bullets galore on the surface but at it’s heart is a story about the toll one’s profession can take on their own personal life (and about Pacino’s love of great asses).  More recently 2016’s Hell or High Water questioned the immorality of armed robbery, given dire circumstances in a forgotten part of the heartland.  It was less cops vs robbers and more the poor vs predatory banks.  Most recently we have Widows.  Like Heat and Hell or High Water, Widows is a goddamn masterpiece.


There’s a lot going on in Widows.  A lot more than the initial pitch (heist movie….. but with women) would have you suggest.  Yeah there’s a makeshift team, yeah there’s a plan, and yeah there’s a safe to crack, but there’s also some very poignant thoughts on the magnitude of corruption inherent in a modern American establishment (in this case Chicago, Illinois).  Gerrymandering, reckless police, kickbacks, nepotism, it’s likely the circle of life for many.  Although the film is based on a British TV series from the early 80’s, I thought a lot of it actually could have been influenced by The Wire.


There are SO MANY great scenes in Widows that I won’t spoil.  Really it’s just one after another from the jump.  But a non-spoiler that you should be on the lookout for is a simple conversation that Colin Farrell has in the back of a moving town car early in the movie.  The entire 2-3 minute scene is shot from the outside of the car but the audio is of the two characters out of frame, talking about nothing exactly pertinent to the plot.  At the time I thought it was a strange and cool looking scene because typically the camera would be inside the vehicle.  Only after listening to a podcast with director Steve McQueen did I realize that McQueen didn’t shoot it that way just to be cool, but he wanted to show the vast disparity between adjoining neighborhoods in a city like Chicago.  You can go from a rundown section of town directly to big, nice houses with picket fences in mere minutes/blocks.  I was focused on the conversation but I really should have been paying attention to the passing background.


Bottom line, Widows is extremely entertaining but will also make you think.  It’s equally mysterious, exhilarating, profound, and jarring, not to mention has the best pound for pound cast of the year (Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Michelle Rodriguez are the people you do know. Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Bryan Tyree Henry, Carrie Coon, and Olivia the dog are the people/canines you might not know but should).  I wanted to give special recognition to Kaluuya’s performance but I think I’ll save that for the year-end wrap up.  Instead I’ll just let it be known that Widows is the heavy favorite for Rated Greg’s best movie of the year (unless Roma crashes the party, not you though Aquaman).  Grade: A+



Rated Greg’s Top 5 Family Dramas

  1. Blue Valentine
  2. Manchester by the Sea
  3. Wildlife
  4. Other People
  5. First Man*

*Before I get to Wildlife, a quick aside about First Man.  First Man vastly underperformed it’s box office projections and there’s some debate as to what actually happened.  Some think a conservative effort to boycott the movie because it didn’t feature the American flag enough in the moon landing scene hurt the turnout, but I find that hard to believe (plus that rumor about the flag being avoided in the movie is simply not true).  Personally, I don’t think it’s rocket science.  First Man failed to make back it’s budget because it was released just one week after A Star is Born and because it wasn’t quite marketed clearly.  This was part bad luck and part poor planning.  A shitload of adults saw A Star is Born the first weekend in October.  For a week straight all you heard about was how great Cooper and Gaga were, so by the next weekend another shitload of adults decided they needed to see A Star is Born to see what all the hype was about.  First Man got buried by the Star hype and the people that may have been interested in it probably forgot it was even out.  On top of that, I think most consumers heard the name Neil Armstrong and just assumed it was a space movie, a genre that I’ve discovered is widely ignored by the more mature audiences.  But here’s the thing, First Man isn’t a space movie.  It’s maybe 15% space and 85% family drama period piece.  But that wasn’t made clear in the trailer.  The audience this was intended for didn’t get the message and the space nerds also didn’t buy in because it’s about an actual person and not a space raccoon.  Adjust the trailer accordingly and release First Man over the summer, where there is less competition for mature audiences, and I’m fairly certain it makes a good deal more in returns.  The comp going in for First Man never should have been Gravity or Arrival, other space movies released in the Fall, it should have been Dunkirk, a mature PG-13 historical movie that made a ton of money in summer ’17.


Ok that was a long quick aside, but onto Wildlife….

John Krasinski (A Quiet Place). Bradley Cooper (Star is Born). Jonah Hill (Mid90’s).  The great year of the actor turned director continues with Paul Dano’s first feature film, Wildlife.  Based on the Richard Ford novel of the same name, Wildlife closes in on the life of a married couple and their 14-year old son for a period in 1960 when the state of Montana was on fire.  It’s exquisitely acted, profoundly scenic, and quite heartfelt despite the tears the characters cause each other to shed.

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Looking at the Top 4 above, the key word here is DRAMA, not to be confused with dramedy.  D-R-A-M-A.  These are not fun, Friday night movies, but that’s ok. Not everything needs to be Tom Cruise jumping out a window or cute, funny coming of age stories.  It feels good, and almost necessary, to have your deeper emotions stirred up via cinema once in awhile. Does that make me a movie masochist or does that just make me this guy?

If you try to see most of the Oscar nominated performances each year, you’re safe to go ahead and check Wildlife out at your local indie theater.  This Sundance darling will most certainly be in the mix.  I can’t say yet about Best Picture, but Carey Mulligan will definitely add another Best Actress nomination to her resume.  Paul Dano and his girlfriend/co-writer Zoe Kazan are also pretty much guaranteed to get a Best Adapted Screenplay nom.  He’s the best working actor today in my opinion, so I hope Gyllenhaal gets a Best Supporting Actor nom as well (Mulligan and the Dax Shepard looking son really are the leads here), but that’s more up in the air.  So go see Wildlife, just maybe not on a Friday night.  Grade: A+

A Star is Born


Rated Greg’s Top 5 Music Movies

  1. Whiplash
  2. La La Land
  3. A Star Is Born
  4. 8 Mile
  5. Wayne’s World 2

A Star Is Born has been the most hyped movie of the year ever since its viral, meme inspiring trailer was released back in June.  But it’s rare for an actual movie to be as good as its elite trailer.  Case in point: The best two minutes of film I saw last year wasn’t in Get Out or Dunkirk or Lady Bird or I, Tonya.  The best two minutes I saw was honestly the official trailer of The Florida Project.  Now, The Florida Project is a legitimately good movie, but if there was one common feedback I got from others it was that the movie wasn’t as good as the trailer, which I totally agree.  I have no desire to watch The Florida Project again, yet I continue to watch the trailer once in awhile for reasons I can’t explain.

Is A Star is Born as good as its trailer?  It’s not even a debate.  A Star is Born emphatically meets the hype that so many movies fall just short of (cough BlacKkKlansman cough). Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut may be a little corny, it may be a little strange at times, it may even be a little musically dated, but all in all it is absolutely UNDENIABLE.  The boy who cried best movie ever appears to have emerged for the first time in 2018.


There’s something so surprising about an A list actor turning out to be a great director. It’s one thing for smaller stars somewhat less in the public eye like Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig to reveal this talent, but it’s kind of jarring to see literally the sexiest man alive according to People Magazine be this competent behind the camera.  I equate it to the type of athletes that eventually become coaches.  The best coaches are vastly made up of ex-role players whereas when ex-superstars try to coach it usually turns into a shitshow (Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, etc).  But with Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck, and now Cooper’s success, maybe this skillset transition, at least in the movie industry, is more common than we think.


Speaking of Dirty Harry, this iteration of A Star is Born was originally slated to be directed by Eastwood (back when Beyonce was attached to star), but it never got off the ground so he eventually gave it to his protégé Cooper.  You’ll recall the two collaborated on 2014’s American Sniper and it’s been widely reported that Cooper closely modeled what it takes to direct a film after the methods he soaked in from Eastwood during that shoot.  Whatever he did it worked, because Cooper’s vision is not only a lock for a Best Picture nomination but also Best Director.



Of course it’s not all Cooper.  Lady Gaga as the titular Star doesn’t just do a good job “for a pop star” but she displays legit acting chops.  If you didn’t know who she was beforehand you would have just assumed she was a yet undiscovered professional thespian that could sing.  She’s might even be my favorite fictional singer since Tia Carrere in Wayne’s World.  MIGHT.

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One of the ways to spot flaws in a movie is if you can picture anyone else in a role that would have made it better, and it’s really hard to imagine someone grasping Ally like Gaga does (no, not even the Queen B).  There’s also Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott, and Cooper’s dog in real life Charlie that can’t be replaced either (I’m expecting a Best Supporting Actor nom for Elliott and a Best Good Boy win for Charlie).


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If anything, the one change I would MAYBE consider is swapping out Cooper the actor for Collin Farrell or Jake Gyllenhaal, however I am coming back around on this performance.  I found Cooper’s very deliberate change in speaking voice to be a little perplexing, but by the end you learn to understand what he’s doing.  It’s also apparent that he clearly poured his blood, sweat, and tears into a role that’s insinuated to hit pretty close to home.  Cooper himself is sober 6 years and you can tell he is exercising some real demons playing a drunk.  So scratch that, he’s irreplaceable too.


I gripe a lot about Hollywood not making enough movies for adults anymore but that’s not entirely true.  They do make movies for adults, it’s just that they’re mostly low budget movies.  In Bill Simmons recent podcast with Matt Damon, Damon was talking about this really cool whale watching scene that they wanted to shoot for the end of 2016’s Manchester By the Sea, but they simply ran out of money and couldn’t afford to shoot it. Obviously Damon was proud of what they accomplished and the film was a success, but he thought cutting that scene due to their $8 million dollar budget lowered the ceiling of the movie.  A Star is Born is the rare adult movie that doesn’t have that problem.  Warner Bros gave it a $35 million dollar budget which is really all you would ever need for a movie that doesn’t have car chases or CGI (assuming Cooper’s glorious mane in this is not CGI).  It’s an investment that has not only returned more than double the budget in just two weeks, but captures a really terrific film that is bound the win some awards this winter.  Grade: A+

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Minding The Gap


Rated Greg’s Top 5 Documentaries

  1. Weiner
  2. Blackfish
  3. Room 237
  4. Minding The Gap
  5. Cobain: Montage of Heck

The Hulu documentary, Minding The Gap, is about three friends growing up and growing apart in the Rust Belt town of Rockford, Illinois over the course of 12 years.  While it bills itself as a “skateboarding movie” it’s far more compelling than that.  The doc was shot and directed by one of those friends, Bing Liu, as they skated around town to escape the various demons going on in their home lives.  Growing up is tough for anybody, but this group particularly went through some shit, and it has significant effects on the men they have become by the end of the film.


I can’t really dive further into the movie, just watch the trailer and you’ll get the gist.  I will say that Bing Liu appears to be a filmmaking wunderkind.  The dynamic among the crew sort of reminded me of a real life Good Will Hunting, and Bing would be the Will in that sense.  It’s among the best cinematography you’ll see all year. Grade: A+

Hot Summer Nights


Rated Greg’s Top 5 Drug Dealing Movies

  1. American Gangster
  2. Belly
  3. Scarface
  4. Paid in Full
  5. Blow Hot Summer Nights

Can I interest you in a drug dealing coming of age movie starring Timothee’ Chalamet? Set in 1991 Cape Cod?  With the standout soundtrack of the year?  Brought to you by A24?  The same studio that recently produced Lady Bird, Moonlight, American Honey, and Eighth Grade?  Well?  Are you interested?  Sounds pretty phenomenal on paper, right?  And after seeing the trailer?

No brainer, right?  Ok good.  Glad that’s settled.  Oh and by the way, just ignore the fact that this went straight to video and has a 42% Rotten Tomato score.


I’m legitimately confused as to why A24 deemed Hot Summer Nights unworthy of a theatrical release.  When exactly was that decision made?  It’s almost as if they made the poster purposely look like a straight to video movie.  Do I have that bad of taste?  I mean, this movie is really entertaining!  You’re telling me that you put this trailer in a modest number of ad spots and people won’t go to the theater?  Especially with Chalamet fresh off a 2018 Oscar nomination?  And double especially in the moviepass era?  I find that hard to believe.  Something else must have happened behind the scenes.  Perhaps it’s the Queen’s Boulevard situation all over again (OH YEAH!).

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Or perhaps A24 really was scared off by the critical response.  They’d been sitting on this movie since forever, since it premiered all the way back at the 2017 SXSW Festival, a good 7 months before Call Me By Your Name was even released.  The studio probably wanted to ride the Chalamet wave into the summer but the critic apathy altered the course.  Looking at their list of films, A24 doesn’t really release poorly reviewed movies. While they have varying box office success, almost every one is a big hit with critics, consistently more so than any other studio.


Here’s the thing though, I skimmed some of the reviews and they weren’t that nasty, just indifferent.  The common flaw highlighted is that Hot Summer Nights is unoriginal. They’re not wrong.  Hot Summer Nights is VERY unoriginal.  It borrows from a lot of movies.  A LOT of movies.  To name a few: Adventureland.  The Sandlot.  The Outsiders. Drive.  Goodfellas.  I’ve never actually seen Dirty Dancing but I’m pretty sure Dirty Dancing could sue for royalties.  Even Heat.  It comes close to stealing a scene directly from Heat!


But I don’t care.   I love all those movies and I love Hot Summer Nights.  It’s both as original and as enjoyable as Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines was in 2013.  Sue me.  Grade: A-.  Coming to Amazon Prime in September.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Rated Greg’s Top 5 Mission: Impossible Scenes

  1. The Langley Heist – Mission Impossible (1996)
  2. The Paris Chase – MI Fallout (2018)
  3. The Phillip Seymour Hoffman Sit Down – MI3 (2006)
  4. The Vienna Opera House – MI Rogue Nation (2015)
  5. The Burg Khalifa – MI Ghost Protocol (2011)


The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey recently declared Mission: Impossible the “Best Movie Franchise.”  He didn’t really clarify whether he meant best right now or best of all time, but I’ll go ahead and clear that up for you.  Mission Impossible is the best movie franchise of all time!  Yes, better than the Marvel movies, better than Fast & Furious, better than Bond & Bourne, better than Rocky, better than Harry Potter, and……earmuffs nerds……it’s better than Star Wars too.  The only two that can compete with it are Indiana Jones and The Dark Knight trilogy, but you have to take into account the quantity of this quality.


I actually suspected that MI might be the best series after 2015’s Rogue Nation, but Rated Greg didn’t exist back then.  I think I texted some superlative about the franchise to the WayBackBoys text chain, and they likely in turn told me to shut up and changed the subject back to PAC-12 basketball.  But anyways, Tom Cruise has now made FIVE really good movies as Ethan Hunt over the past 22 years, with only one bad one in MI2. Harrison Ford as Dr. Jones made 3 great movies. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne made 2.5. Cruise deserves the crown after his fifth and with a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, unheard of for a silly action movie, the critics appear to be on the same page.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout is incredible. It’s the best iteration of the franchise, probably the best straight up action movie since Mad Max Fury Road, and contains perhaps the best multitude of action ever featured in a PG-13 movie (How have I never seen a high speed helicopter chase before?!).  The fact that the majority of the stunts are real sets the experience so far above anything you’ll see in the CGI heavy Marvel or gravitationally ridiculous Fast and Furious.  Cruise even reportedly broke his ankle while filming this jump.

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Now that’s dedication to a craft.  Grade: A+

Special Disclosure:  Before the release, a friend asked me if he needed to see the first five to enjoy Fallout.  I responded no, given that each of the previous installments are all pretty much stand alone stories (kind of like Bond).  However after seeing this my advice was a little wrong as there are multiple story references to MI3, 4, and 5 in Fallout.  Granted, plot and character development are low on the list of reasons why you see this movie, but still, if you want to appreciate all of the payoffs you might want to check those out beforehand.  And honestly if you like action movies, I’m a little offended if you haven’t already seen those anyways.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado


Rated Greg’s Top 5 Least Politically Correct Movies

  1. Revenge of the Nerds
  2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  3. Sicario: Day of the Soldado
  4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  5. London Has Fallen

What sort of deal with the devil did Taylor Sheridan make?  I’ll admit I’m not that well versed in the history of Hollywood screenwriters, but it seems like the number of people who have written four or more great films over the course of their entire career would be a short list.  Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin, the Coen Bros. come to mind, but even they take 3-4 years to develop a single project.  Sheridan’s sequel to Sicario didn’t just earn him his fourth exceptional movie, but it’s the 48 year old’s fourth in a span of FOUR years!  How the hell is that even possible?  Add that to the promising start of his TV series Yellowstone and Sheridan’s output is no less of a fluke than Steph Curry’s first MVP campaign.


Now, with dialogue like “You wanna see this through? I’m gonna have to get…..dirty”, Taylor Sheridan isn’t going to be confused with William Shakespeare any time soon, but his films aren’t really about the dialogue.  They’re about scenery and story.  They’re about violence and the forgotten frontier.  They’re about the open road closing in on you. And they’re about the ruggedly handsome men and ruggedly pretty women that are good with a pistol.  Even to those who don’t typically clamor to see movies that feature a gun on the poster, I would recommend Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River to any adult, as they represent the very peak of the thriller genre this decade.  HOWEVER, while I did like this movie very much, there’s no way in hell I’d recommend Sicario 2 to those with more gentle movie palates.


Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a strange anomaly for the movie industry in 2018.  Frankly, I have no idea why Sony made this movie.  Was it made specifically for Rated Greg?  It certainly wasn’t made to make money or else they wouldn’t have freakin named it Sicario: Day of the Soldado.  For a movie dependent on word of mouth, that’s quite the mouthful.  On top of that, you rarely if never see a sequel greenlit for a movie that made less than $100 million.  Even if Sicario made a billion dollars in my heart, it only made $47M in the actual US box office.

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Despite the original’s three Oscar nominations in 2016, Sony didn’t make this movie to win awards either, because Sicario 2 is among the most culturally reckless pieces of work I’ve ever seen.  I mean, just look at the fucking poster lol.


Emily Blunt’s character from the original is gone, along with any semblance of a moral compass.  What was a subtle thriller with two great action scenes is now a full fledged, firing on all cylinders roller coaster.  Usually a film becomes politically incorrect many years down the road, but this….and I have to hand it to them…..this action movie which TAKES PLACE ON THE MEXICO BORDER is a completely unapologetic work of fiction, with no regard for problematic messages it might portray to viewers, abroad and domestic, susceptible to cinematic influence.  It’s so barren of ideals that it’s honestly hard to figure out who you’re supposed to be rooting for.


I actually think Sony deserves some credit for releasing this movie and putting themselves at risk for any PC backlash.  This is the same company after all that was completely exposed by the North Korea hack and they don’t exactly have the public goodwill that Disney holds.  If a harmless movie like La La Land can receive mounds of shit from outrage culture, just imagine what they could do to this.

Would I be surprised if viewers find the portrayal of the American government or Mexican population offensive in Sicario 2?  Absolutely not.  Most level-headed adults SHOULD wince a little during certain exchanges, but goddamnit if this isn’t a REALLY well made action movie.  The Day of the Soldado is definitely a cloudy one, but I do genuinely believe from a filmmaking perspective this is the best movie of the year thus far (even if it’s not as good as the original).  And personally, I’m way more offended by the Mamma Mia 2 trailer anyways.  Grade: A+

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