All the top 10 lists Nick has scripted for WatchMojo.com, the 7th largest YouTube channel in the world throughout 2014.
Nick's film review column at Filmfestivaltoday.com.
A comic strip sadly inspired by the real life of Nick Spake.
At the age of fifteen, I launched NickPicksFlicks.com, a website dedicated to the art of film. Since then, I have worked as a published film critic for Arizona State Press, Ahwatukee Foothills News, Nerd Repository, Film Festival Today, Arizona Filmmaker Magazine, and East Valley Tribune. Entertainment writing has also given me the opportunity to interview several big name celebrities, including Emma Stone, Chris Evans, J.J. Abrams, Emma Roberts, and various others. My life hit a roadblock in 2013 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but I refused to let having cancer prevent me from writing film reviews and finishing college with a 4.0 GPA. In May 2013, I graduated from Arizona State University, achieving a BA in Theatre and a minor in communications. Teaching me just how precious life is, my disease further influenced me to reach out to others through my writing. Today, I'm happy to say that I am currently cancer free. As of September 2014, I have worked as a freelancer writer for WatchMojo.com, which recently surpassed 6 million subscribers on YouTube. This video content site has acted as a creative outlet for me to write top ten lists about movies, television, video games, and pretty much everything else. Out of the hundred scripts I've contributed to them so far, I'm primarily proud of the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time, Another Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials, and Top 10 Worst Movies of 2014. In 2015, I joined the Flickreel family as a a critic and columnist. I'm overjoyed to be on the team and can't wait to bring you all more movie reviews.
5 Stars= It's Simply the Best
4 Stars= Totally Rocks
3 Stars= Rad
2 Stars= Bad
1 Star= Terrible
Zero= Totally Sucks
“The Birth of a Nation” has been one of the talked about movies of the past several months. The film was a huge hit at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and got purchased by Fox Searchlight Pictures for an unprecedented $17.5 million. Of course not all the buzz surrounding “The Birth of a Nation” is positive. Director/Writer/Producer/Star Nate Parker has attracted a fair deal of controversy due to his 1999 rape charges, not to mention his more recent accusations of homophobia. Then there’s the fact that the film ironically bears the same title as D. W. Griffith’s 1915 silent picture, which depicted the KKK as heroes.
As for the film itself, though, “The Birth of a Nation” is a nothing short of a great American drama. The film is reminiscent of other modern classics about prejudice, such as “12 Years a Slave,” “Selma,” and even “Django Unchained.” Yet, this true story still stands out as a unique experience through its fascinating depiction of slavery and faith. At the center of everything is Nate Parker, who might be a controversial figure. Like Roman Polanski, however, his dedication, passion, and talent cannot be denied. Sometimes you need to separate the artist from the art.
Parker plays Nat Turner, an African American slave who learns how to read at a young age. His owners only allow him to study the Bible, though. Turning grows up to be a preacher, becoming a leader in the eyes of his fellow slaves. While Turner’s circumstances are by no means ideal, he at least has an education, a beautiful wife (Aja Naomi King), and a position that grants him special privileges. Thus, most slaves would kill to be in his shoes.
To maintain this lifestyle, Turner is content with his keeping his head down and obeying his masters. This changes when he’s forced to go on the road and preach to other slaves throughout the south. While on tour, Turner comes to understand just how savage and inhuman slavery is. Unable to stand idly by anymore, he’s inspired to spark a slave rebellion. Of course this means risking the life he’s worked so hard to build for himself.
Parker delivers a raw, commanding performance as Turner, carrying much of the film. Yet, Parker also has a strong supporting cast to work with. Armie Hammer in particular gives a multi-layered performance as Turner’s master, Samuel. Far from the most sadistic character in the film, Samuel actually treats his slaves with a certain degree of human decency. He even goes out of his way to help Turner on occasion. At the same time, however, Samuel still talks down to his slaves and treats them like property. If they show any sign of disobedience, he won’t think twice about cracking the whip.
Needless to say, “The Birth of a Nation” is not an easy film to watch. The movie is full shocking imagery, much of which involves Jackie Earle Haley as a cruel slave catcher. For every brutal scene, though, there’s an uplifting moment that captures the power of the human spirit. It’s all lovingly crafted by Parker, who packs his film with breathtaking cinematography, a haunting score, and unwavering honesty. Sometimes the Christ symbolism can be a little too on the nose, but it doesn’t distract from the film’s underlying message: preaching to people is one thing, but following through is quite another.
Although “The Girl on the Train” is a perfectly solid psychological thriller, it has the misfortune of coming out a couple years after “Gone Girl.” Watching director Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Erin Cressida Wilson’s hit novel, you can’t help but think of David Fincher’s harrowing style and Gillian Flynn’s intricate storytelling. That’s not to say the film is a cheap knockoff. It’s a well-made, well-plotted mystery that leaves you on pins and needles. When stacking both movies up against each other, though, “The Girl on the Train” can almost feel like a Lifetime movie.
Emily Blunt turns in a heartrending performance as Rachel, who’s the definition of a train wreck. She drinks because she’s unhappy and she’s unhappy because she drinks. Although Rachel doesn’t remember everything about her marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux), she knows that it ended badly. Tom is now married to Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna and has a beautiful daughter with her. Rachel constantly stalks her ex’s new family, but for some reason they never file a restraining order.
To cope with her crippling loneliness and sorrow, Rachel rides the train on a daily basis. Along the way, she passes by a house owned by Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans). Although they seem like a happy couple, Rachel eventually discovers that Megan is having an affair. The plot thickens when Megan goes missing and is presumed dead. Rachel has her suspicions about who’s responsible. Given her alcoholic nature, though, she’s not entirely sure what to believe.
This is what makes “The Girl on the Train” such a compelling mystery. The audience is forced to place their faith in a person who isn’t at all reliable. Sometimes Rachel remembers things one way and sometimes she remembers them another. Much like Elliot in “Mr. Robot” or the Narrator in “Fight Club,” her mind is all over the place. That makes putting the puzzle together all the more fun. Along the way, Blunt creates a genuinely sympathetic character we come to root for.
While “The Girl on the Train” is an entertaining whodunit, the final destination is a bit of a letdown. The ending is by no means bad, but the explanation probably won’t catch anybody off guard. Again, this is simply why the superior film is “Gone Girl,” which managed to be unpredictable while also ingeniously tying everything together. Even if “The Girl on the Train” isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, it’s still hard not admire the performances and craft. It’s certainly a ride worth taking, despite having to live in “Gone Girl’s” shadow.
"The Blair Witch Project" admittedly isn’t a movie that holds up phenomenally. If you were to show the film to a contemporary audience, they’d probably view it as a relic from a forgotten time. Nevertheless, it does have its place in cinematic history, launching the found footage genre into the mainstream and demonstrating how the Internet can help build hype for a movie. For the time it was released, "The Blair Witch Project" did have a unique style, chilling atmosphere, and strong tension that kept building.
Just one year after the film’s release, we got "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2." It was stupid, half-assed, and had virtually no connection to its predecessor, but at least that made it memorable. Another decade and a half down the line, we get "Blair Witch," a direct sequel to the cultural phenomenon that started it all. From a filmmaking and storytelling standpoint, "Blair Witch" is technically a better follow-up than "Book of Shadows." However, it’s also arguably the most forgettable entry in this franchise, taking no chances and basically copying the original.
James Allen McCune stars as James Donahue, Heather Donahue’s sister. Many years after his sibling went missing in Black Hills Forest, James goes looking for the illusive Blair Witch. A documentary filmmaker named Lisa (Callie Hernandez), a couple fellow college students (Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid), and two locals (Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry) come along as well. Of course wandering into the woods turns out to be the biggest mistake of their lives, as the gang is tormented by the mysterious forces that go bump in the night.
Ironically, the best aspect of "Blair Witch" is its production values. Since this is the 21st century, our protagonists are no longer required to just carry around a video camera. They’re able to use headsets, webcams, and drones to capture sights from different angles. At the same time, "Blair Witch" still maintains an armature filmmaking style that’s in the spirit of the 1999 film. It’s interesting to see how modern technology functions in this universe, although cell phones and GPS will always be useless in horror movies.
Aside from this, though, "Blair Witch" mainly just feels like a waste of time. Virtually every scare, set piece, and idea feels recycled. Every time it seems like the film is going to try something different, it just reverts back to the same old clichés. At the center of everything are a group of incredibly stupid characters that just make one stupid decision after another. It also doesn’t help that we’ve gotten countless other recovered footage movies since "The Blair Witch Project," from "REC," to "Cloverfield," to "Paranormal Activity"
What makes "Blair Witch" especially disappointing is that it was directed by Adam Wingard, who made the wickedly entertaining "You're Next" and "The Guest." One would expect a filmmaker as inventive as Wingard to take this franchise to a whole new level of horror. Yet, the most interesting part of "Blair Witch" is how the studio managed to keep it under wraps for so long. Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett add nothing to the Blair Witch mythology and resolve no loose ends. Granted, you could argue that the less you know about the Blair Witch, the better. If that’s the case, though, why bother making a sequel at all?
No Country For Old Men... but less disturbing ****
"Hell or High Water" is one of the most absorbing games of cat and mouse you’ll ever see on the silver screen. This is largely because the cats and mice in question are all empathetic characters. There really aren’t any good guys or bad guys here.
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